Council to set ‘clear’ policy on in-camera meetings

 

By Karen Fallon

In an effort to outline the concerns expressed by the Ontario Ombudsman André Marin in a more “succinct” format, Brenda Percy, Manager, Council & Legislative Services presented a report to council Monday.

“The intention of this report was certainly not to supersede the Ombudsman’s report but to put it in a more chronological order to outline to the public the exact nature of our discussions in-camera and the opinion of the Ombudsman in terms of errors that were made,” said councilor John Sutton.

“And more importantly, the remedies that either have been or will be implemented to ensure that there won’t be a re-occurrence,” he continued. “I think the report does a great job of outlining in a very succinct form the errors that were made.”

Complaints filed with the Ombudsman’s office in March 2011 resulted in a 23-page report entitled “Behind Closed Doors” that revealed council had contravened the open meeting requirements in a number of respects relative to the Municipal Act and its own procedural by-law.

The Ombudsman’s office completed an investigation into a number of closed meetings held by the Town of Amherstburg  on Jan 7, 10, 20, 24, and March 25, 2011.

Brenda Percy, Manager, Council & Legislative Services says new policy has been developed that deals with in-camera requirements as set out by the Ombudsman’s office for council’s review.

Percy recommended that presentation of the document would take place on April 23 as she will be absent from the April 9 council meeting.

“It is imperative that the clerk is present at the meeting when we deal with this,” said Mayor Wayne Hurst.

As a result of the Ombudsman’s report, notes Percy in her report, a number of changes have already been made to the town’s practices.

“What we have to show is that we have a willingness to change and modify our practices to ensure that we are in compliance with the Act and that really has to be our main concern,’ said Sutton. “Hopefully that is what we all take away from the report this evening.

According to Percy, last summer the Ombudsman office also received complaints relating to in-camera meetings held in 2011 on July 26 and 18 and on Jan 23, 2012.

However, she points out that the Ombudsman’s office did not proceed with a formal investigation at that time as an initial review confirmed that no contraventions had been found as the town had complied with Section 239 of the Municipal Act.

A “letter of thanks,” notes Percy, will be sent from the town to the Ombudsman.

 

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