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Petrolia Council receives Report from the Ontario Ombudsman


Posted: May 29, 2018

Petrolia, ON – Following an investigation by the Office of the Ontario Ombudsman of three closed meetings that took place in the fall of 2017, the Ontario Ombudsman has finalized their report. 

The Ombudsman is an independent officer of the Legislature who investigates complaints from the public about Ontario public sector bodies within his jurisdiction, recommending improvements for governance and resolving individual issues. The Ombudsman is Mr. J. Paul Dubé, who began his five-year term on April 1, 2016.

The Office of the Ombudsman oversees and investigates more than 1,000 provincial government and broader public-sector bodies, such as provincial ministries, Crown corporations, tribunals, agencies, boards and commissions, and municipalities, universities, and school boards every year.

Complaints received by the Ombudsman, were followed up by an investigation and the results of such are as follows:

About a closed-door meeting held on September 11, 2017, the Council of the Town of Petrolia did not contravene the open meeting rules when the discussion involved labour relations; however, the Council of the Town of Petrolia was found to contravene the Municipal Act in that “the topics covered in the presentation did not fit within any of the exceptions to the open meeting rules.”  as it relates to the presentation from staff of the YMCA in camera about questions regarding ownership of the facility, and other questions about the proposal. 

As follow up to the September 11, 2017 closed-door meeting, the office of the Ombudsman stated the following in relation to the contravention of the Act:

“38    In 2011, with respect to an appeal of a decision of the IPC, Ontario’s Divisional Court found that it is not realistic to expect a municipal council to come in and out of closed session to parse permitted topics from topics not permitted in camera. The Court explained:  Whenever a participant interrupts the consideration [of a permitted topic] … to refer to any other option being considered or to review any part of the history or background, the meeting would have to adjourn to go into a public session and then close again when the discussion returned to consider the [permitted topic]. It is not realistic to expect the members of a municipal council to parse their meetings in this way. At a minimum, it would detract from free, open and uninterrupted discussion. It could lead to meetings that dissolve into recurring, if not continuous, debate about when to close the meeting and when to invite the interested public to return.

39    While many of the questions posed by council members on September 11, 2017 did not relate to employees or labour issues, it would be unrealistic to expect the town to parse employee-related questions from other general questions during the question-and-answer portion of the meeting. The question period that followed the YMCA presentation fit within the exception for labour relations or employee negotiations.”

 About two additional closed-door meetings held on both October 25 and November 14, 2017 the Town of Petrolia was found to comply with best practice and that the Council for the Town of Petrolia did not contravene the Act regarding labour relations discussed on October 25, 2017 and did not contravene the Act in respect to discussions about code of conduct violations by a member of Council on November 25, 2017.

The full report is available to the public here: https://www.ombudsman.on.ca/home.

The Council of the Town of Petrolia was offered five recommendations by Mr. Dube, which they reviewed during open Council this evening.  Council and staff of the Town of Petrolia thank Mr. Dube and Ms. Bull for the report.

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For more information:

John McCharles

Mayor

Town of Petrolia,

411 Greenfield Street, Petrolia, Ontario, N0N 1R0

Phone: (519)882-2350  E-mail: jmccharles@petrolia.ca