Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin says Council’s “Government Relations Contact Team” is not a committee of council for the purpose of open meeting requirements and, as such, their closed door meeting with Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca on July 25, 2014 did not violate the Municipal Act.
Marin received a complaint from Hamilton Mountain MPP Monique Taylor about the meeting, of which she was not invited.
Before the Meeting
Marin says his office was contact by City of Hamilton staff on July 14 for guidance about the open meeting requirements. Ombuds staff provided general feedback and examples of previous rulings related to similar meetings.
Marin’s office does not make rulings prior to meetings, and only investigates upon complaint.
The investigation began on August 13, 2014. Marin’s reports state they “received full co-operation in this matter” and were able to speak with City staff, Mayor Bratina, and the four councillors who attended the meeting.
Marin’s staff did encounter difficulty determining the membership of the Government Relations Contact Team and how many – if any – times it had met prior to the LRT meeting.
“There was significant confusion regarding who was on the team,” reads the report.
“There was also some confusion regarding when the Team met.”
Investigators says one Councillor stated the Team met once before, another said ‘once or twice’, and another said the Team had never met.
“We were unable to obtain consistent information regarding the details of previous Team meetings, if they did occur”, the investigators concluded.
The Ombudsman’s Investigation found the Team is not a committee of council, subject to Municipal Act open meeting requirements.
As such, the meeting on July 25 was not a violation of the Municipal Act.
Following the confusion about the Government Relations Contact Team, Marin is recommending Council “clarify the membership, role and authority of the Government Relations Contact Team, and consider having the Team report back to council publicly after a gathering.”