Closed Meeting Investigations

Why are some meetings closed to the public?

Municipal councils, local boards and their committees must meet behind closed doors on occasion to deal with some matters. For example, if a municipality is being sued or if Council is considering purchasing a piece of land or if Council must deal with a labour relations issue then it is appropriate that it be able to do so at a closed meeting. The purpose of such a closed meeting is to receive information or give direction.

Local government in Ontario must be transparent and accountable. To this end, the Province has set the rules for a council, local board or a committee to go into a closed meeting. These rules are found in section 239 of the Municipal Act 2001, as amended. They must be strictly followed.

The permitted reasons for going into a closed meeting are:

  • the security of property of the municipality or local board;
  • Personal matters about an identifiable individual, including employees;
  • A proposed or pending acquisition or disposition of land;
  • Labour relations or employee negotiations;
  • Litigation or potential litigation
  • Advice that is subject to solicitor-client privilege;
  • A matter authorized by another provincial statute;
  • If the subject matter relates to a request under the Municipal Freedom of Information or Protection of Privacy Act;
  • The meeting is held for educating and training and no member discusses or deals with a matter in a way that materially advances the business decision-making of the council or local board.

Background

As of January 1, 2008 any person or corporation will be able to request that an investigation be undertaken respecting whether a municipality or local board or committee of either, has complied with closed meeting rules outlined in the Municipal Act, 2001 or the applicable procedural by-law.

The Township of Howick has engaged the services of the Ontario Ombudsman as the Municipal Closed Meeting Investigator and has authorized it to conduct investigations upon receipt of a complaint in respect of meetings or parts of meetings that are closed to the public.

The investigator will determine compliance with the Act or the applicable procedural by-law with respect to closed meetings and will report on the results of such investigations.

The Ombudsman Ontario website may be viewed at:
http://www.ombudsman.on.ca/Investigations/Municipal-Meetings.aspx

Complaint Procedure

Complaints may be submitted to Ombudsman Ontario through their website. using their online form at the following link:

http://www.ombudsman.on.ca/Make-a-Complaint/Complaint-Submission/Closed-MeetingComplaint.aspx