Council to establish clear policy regarding in-camera meetings

 

By Karen Fallon

Under New Business councillor John Sutton’s responded to the report by Ontario Ombudsman André Marin during Monday’s council meeting

In the report dated Jan. 6, 2012, it notes that: “the council for the Town of Amherstburg repeatedly contravened the Municipal Act and its own procedure by-law.”

In an effort to address the Ombudsman’s findings Sutton made a motion which included that “administration be directed to bring forward a public report outlining the specific nature of in-camera meetings discussed in the Ombudsman’s report “Behind closed Doors.”

The report coming from administration, continued Sutton, will include remedies to ensure that council moves forward in a positive manner in concurrence with the recommendations of the Ombudsman.

“I think there has been a lot of questions around the intent of this – his motion – and I would like an opportunity to clear that up,” said Sutton. “I, as I am sure every member of council does, take the recommendations of the Ombudsman very seriously and believe them to be the minimum standards for change.”

Sutton says the public should know, respecting applicable privacy legislation, what goes on in in-camera sessions.

“It is incumbent that we establish clear policy that we can all agree on whether we will or will not hold closed sessions,” he continued. “I would love nothing more than to pass that recommendation tonight, but then we would be in violation of recommendation five about proper notice of provisions and what we are bringing up under new business.”

The Ombudsman’s report determined that the Council had contravened the open meeting requirements in a number of respects relative to the Municipal Act and its own procedural by-law.

Councillor Diane Pouget says she believes Sutton’s motion doesn’t go far enough, as administration should also be directed to send a letter to Marin “thanking him for his investigation and report.”

“We need to advise him that council takes this report very seriously and we are committed to follow these recommendations,” said Pouget, who noted that in the past several members of council have questioned going in-camera on occasion and as a result were “chastised.”

“We can sit here and bring up the past,” said councillor Robert Pillon. “There isn’t a single person up here that has said we did nothing wrong, but we did…now we have to move ahead.”

Councillor Carolyn Davies says that out of all the decisions made by council since the election, there have only been five “boo boos.”

“That isn’t bad, but it isn’t good,” Davies said. “We should be grateful that we have a government that leads us in democracy and keeps us on the straight and narrow.”

Councillor Bart DiPasquale says the public wants to know why the things outlined in the Ombudsman’s report happened.

“I think we need to call our Ministry of Municipal Affairs advisor to meet with council,” said DiPasquale. “That person is there to give us advice.

Sutton agreed with a friendly amendment to his motion to add a letter to the Ombudsman as outlined by Pouget.

Administration is currently working with the Ombudsman’s office to hold a training session with council.

 

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