Ombudsman notes town not in breach of Municipal Act

 

By Karen Fallon

Discussion got hot under the collar during the July 23 meting when councillors John Sutton and Robert Pillon spoke about “the councillor” who noted in the press that changes to in-camera meetings had been the result of only three members of council.

Earlier this month the town received a report from Ombudsman Andre Marin’s noting that both closed-door meeting recently in question did not contravention Municipal Act, or the town’s procedural by-law.

“That is quite unfair and quite a broad brush to paint other people with. To say that certain people talk the talk, but don’t walk the walk, is totally untrue and unfair,” said Sutton. “I took great offense when those things were said.”

Councillor Robert Pillon says for one council member to indicate that the changes made to the in-camera sessions are a result of only three members of council is really upsetting.

“When the statement was made, ‘There are only three of us that care,’ do you know what that does to the community? asked Pillon. “We have to be seven not three – members of council – and the sooner we get to know that the better we will be and the more we will get done.”

A report by Brenda Percy, manager council and legislative services, regarding the latest Ombudsman investigation of in-camera meetings held January 9 and February 14 noted that the town did nothing wrong, as in both instances council was considering legal advice from the town’s solicitor and no other matter.

In the last page of the recent Ombudsman’s report, the municipality is acknowledged and congratulated for taking such steps to ensure compliance with the Municipal Act and procedural bylaw, notes Percy.

According to Percy: “The town has implemented several changes including a policy on closed meetings, all of which support the principles of open and accountable governance.”

The modifications come following an earlier investigation by the Ombudsman’s office regarding a complaint into a number of closed meetings held by the town on Jan 7, 10, 20, 24, and March 25, 2011

The earlier investigation 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.

According to Sutton: “Since the infamous meeting when we returned the money back to Mr. (Jim) Masson and we were found to be in error, we have made quite substantive changes to the way we do our in-camera meetings and Mr. Marrin has certainly recognized that we have made a commitment to that.

“I can say this with great relish, since that Massen meeting when we returned that donation, there hasn’t been one meeting moving forward from that we have been in violation of the Act,” he continued.

Things have improved significantly since the Ombudsman’s earlier report, agreed councillor Diane Pouget, who noted that the reason the Ombudsman conducted an investigation in the first place was due to: “Several very courageous people in the town and three members of council.”

“It was only through that, that this was brought up and there was a total investigation and we were found to be in non-compliance and since then we have improved dramatically,” said Pouget.

Mayor Wayne Hurst says it takes everyone working together to benefit the community.

 

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