Lack of In-camera Information = Lack of Transparency?

In its January 2012 Report, TOWN OF AMHERSTBURG – “BEHIND CLOSED DOORS,” the Ombudsman stated, paragraph 73:

“In my view, the council’s resolutions authorizing closed sessions, which were reviewed during this investigation were deficient and failed to provide adequate notice to the public, as well as individual members of council, as to the nature of the proposed subject matter and the justification for having an in camera meeting.”

Council’s resolutions today typically cite the applicable Municipal Act section; the June 28, 2021 SPECIAL IN-CAMERA COUNCIL MEETING Resolution# 20210628-210:

That Council move into an In-Camera Meeting of Council at 3: 34 p.m. pursuant to Section 239 of the Municipal Act, 2001, as amended for the following reasons:

Item A – Section 239(2)(d) – Labour relations or employee negotiations; and, Section 239(2)(f) – Advice that is subject to solicitor-client privilege, including communications necessary for that purpose.

Item B – Section 239(2)(f) – Advice that is subject to solicitor-client privilege, including communications necessary for that purpose.

Item C – Section 239(2)(i) – A trade secret or scientific, technical, commercial, financial or labour relations information, supplied in confidence to the municipality or local board, which, if disclosed, could reasonably be expected to prejudice significantly the competitive position, or interfere significantly with the contractual or other negotiations of a person, group of persons, or organization.

Item D – Section 239(2)(c) – A proposed or pending acquisition or disposition of the land by the municipality or local board.

Clerk Valerie Critchley’s Response:

Regarding the In Camera Minutes, you noted examples from June 28, 2021, August 8, 2021, August 16, 2021, August 25, 2021, September 13, 2021, September 16, 2021, November 16, 2021 and December 13, 2021. I would note that the November 16, 2021 and December 13, 2021 minutes have not yet been approved by Council and will be on an upcoming Agenda.

With respect to the other meetings, s. 239(4)  of the Municipal Act  states that:

s. 239(4) Before holding a meeting or part of a meeting that is to be closed to the public, a municipality shall state by resolution:

(a)   the fact of the holding of the closed meeting and the general nature of the matter to be considered at the closed meeting.

As a result, Notice is given in the manner that you have set out below and a resolution is passed which cites the allowable exception pursuant to the Municipal Act which the Municipality is relying on to move camera. That allowable exception also serves to provide the “general nature of the matter to be considered”.

Further, sections 239(5) (6) and (7)  Municipal Act states as follows:

s. 239(5) Subject to subsection (6), a meeting shall not be closed to the public during the taking of a vote;

s. 239(6) Despite section 244, a meeting may be closed to the public during the taking of a vote if,

(a) subsection (2) or (3) permits or requires the meeting to be closed to the public; and

(b) the vote is for a procedural matter or for giving directions or instructions to officers, employees or agents of the municipality, local board or committee or either of them or persons retained by or under a contract with the municipality or local board.

VOTE October 24, 2022 – hold candidates accountable.

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