Ombudsman to Council: Failure to Stream is a Closed Meeting Violation

Ontario’s Ombudsman states the City of Hamilton violated the Municipal Act when it failed to maintain a livestream of the LGBTQ Advisory Committee in October 2021.

The complaint, filed by The Public Record, follow the video stream of the meeting suddenly cutting out as Ward 1 Councillor Maureen Wilson expressed her discomfort with the use of Council’s “Integrity Commissioners” against LGBTQ Advisory Committee Chair Cameron Kroetsch and threats made by other members of Council to direct the “Integrity Commissioners” to investigate citizens who are critical of Council.

“When I saw the post, I was quite alarmed by it”, Wilson stated. “I wrote to the Mayor when I got up in the morning and I expressed my alarm. That I deemed it to be a threatening gesture or words, and that I registered my opposition in no uncertain terms”.

“As the Head of Council I asked him to consider, I’d have to find my wording of the ask”, Wilson continued. “When that kind of behaviour is practised, it diminishes the institution of Council and in my opinion the City government as whole. It is not in keeping with how I think elected individuals should serve.”

At this point, the City’s livestream of the meeting ended.

The Ombudsman’s report states a VPN disconnection resulting from issue with the staff WebEx host’s home internet connection caused the livestream to end.

As the meeting continued in WebEx, with the citizen committee members aware the stream had ended, the open meeting requirement was violated.

“The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Advisory Committee for the City of Hamilton contravened the Municipal Act, 2001, on October 20, 2020 when it held a portion of a meeting that the public was unable to attend due to technical issues. While the meeting was closed inadvertently, the committee was aware that the livestream had failed and chose to continue the meeting anyways”, the Ombudsman report states.

The City of Hamilton updated its procedures to prevent further VPN disconnections of public meetings, and to direct all committee chairs to stop meetings in the event livestreaming is not working.

City Hall declined to release the full recording of the meeting.

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