La Nation council is acting on a report from the Ontario Ombudsman that found the municipality violated regulations and the Ontario Municipal Act over the contents of closed session council meetings.
A complaint in January 2019 alleged that council’s resolutions to enter closed sessions had not provided enough information to allow members of the public to gauge whether the topics of discussion fit within the exceptions permitted under Municipal Act.
The Ombudsman found that council had contravened the law on six occasions in 2018 and 2019 involving the insufficient disclosure of reasons for having a closed session. The Ombudsman’s report contained seven recommendations for the municipality to follow to prevent the errors from being made again.
When La Nation council met on September 23, it approved a resolution accepting the recommendations and a plan to implement them.
The first recommendation is that councillors be vigilant in adhering to their individual and collective obligations under the Municipal Act. Council plans to do this through “Continual education and enforcement.”
Recommendation two is for councillors to ensure no subject is discussed in closed session unless it is permitted under in the Municipal Act. Again, the implementation plan is for continual enforcement and education.
The recommendation to ensure the public receives a maximum amount of information about the reason for a closed session without compromising the reason for having it is being implemented.
The Ombudsman recommended that a complete record of all open and closed meetings be kept. A by-law has been amended ensuring that minutes of closed meetings are kept by the clerk and approved at the following council meeting.
Recommendation five suggests that the municipality make audio or video recordings of all open and closed portions of council meetings. That recommendation will be discussed during the 2020 budget process.
Council has already complied with the sixth recommendation, which states that the municipality should change its procedural by-law to accurately reflect the subjects that permit closed meetings.
The seventh and final recommendation calls for council to establish the “best practice” of reporting the conclusions of a closed session, in an open session once the closed portion of the meeting has ended. La Nation has implemented that recommendation.
Mayor François St-Amour said council recognizes the recommendations and wants to show the public they are taking them seriously.