Meeting (definition)

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Town of Hawkesbury

March 29, 202129 March 2021
The Ombudsman received a complaint alleging that on June 15, 2020, a quorum of councillors for the Town of Hawkesbury discussed council business that they intended to introduce and vote on at a council meeting scheduled for the next day. The complaint alleged that this discussion amounted to a “meeting” and was improperly closed to the public contrary to the Municipal Act, 2001. The Ombudsman’s investigation found that the Mayor individually spoke with three councillors regarding employee terminations in separate discussions. The Ombudsman found that these serial discussions were not a meeting because a quorum of councillors was never present, as required by the definition of “meeting” in the Act.

Greater Napanee BIA

January 05, 202105 January 2021
The Ombudsman investigated a complaint that a quorum of board members for the Greater Napanee BIA met in a private local business on June 24, 2020, contrary to the Municipal Act’s open meeting requirements. The Ombudsman found that the board members’ discussions related to social matters and how each business owner was coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. Accordingly, this gathering did not materially advance the BIA’s business or decision-making and was not a “meeting” contrary to the Municipal Act’s open meeting requirements. 

Township of Stone Mills

December 22, 202022 December 2020
The Ombudsman received complaints regarding meetings held by the Township of Stone Mills between August 10, 2020 and October 27, 2020. Specifically, the complainants disagreed with the municipality’s decision to hold in-person council meetings without providing members of the public with a way to watch the meeting remotely, such as through video or phone conferencing technology. The Ombudsman’s review determined that council initially chose to satisfy the Act’s requirement to hold open meetings by broadcasting virtual Zoom meetings on YouTube. As of August 2020, the Township changed its approach and decided to satisfy the Act’s open meeting requirement by holding in-person council meetings in consultation with the local public health unit. The Ombudsman’s review confirmed that the municipality provided public notice of its meetings from August 10 to October 27, 2020, and that members of the public were able to attend these meetings and see municipal decision-making in progress. The Ombudsman did not find any violations of the Act’s open meeting requirements.

Township of Southgate

December 01, 202001 December 2020
The Ombudsman reviewed complaints about a meeting held by the Township of Southgate Fire Department Advisory and Support Committee. The township’s procedure by-law provided for the adjournment of any meeting where quorum was not achieved within 30 minutes of the scheduled start time. The committee achieved quorum more than 30 minutes after the scheduled start time, and proceeded to discuss fire services in a manner that materially advanced the business of the municipality. The Ombudsman found that while the township contravened its procedure by-law, the meeting was not illegally closed to the public. The Ombudsman recommended that the township ensure all meetings are conducted in accordance with the open meeting rules and its procedure by-law.  

Town of Saugeen Shores

August 10, 202010 August 2020

The Ombudsman reviewed a complaint that that during an open meeting on February 24, 2020, council for the Town of Saugeen Shores held an illegal meeting by discussing council business during a recess. The Ombudsman found that while a quorum of council was present at the recess, no members of council had any discussions that materially advanced council business and council did not make any decisions. Rather, the Clerk relayed potential next steps to the Mayor, who then relayed this information to council. Council returned to open session to exercise its decision-making authority. As council business was not materially advanced and no decisions were made by council during the recess, these discussions were not a meeting and therefore not subject to the open meeting rules.  

Municipality of Callander

June 19, 202019 June 2020

The Ombudsman reviewed a series of emails exchanged by members of council that refers to an informal interaction between members of council on a prior date. Based on the information gathered during interviews, the Ombudsman was satisfied that no informal meeting took place.

Town of Pelham

June 10, 202010 June 2020

The Ombudsman received a complaint alleging that a quorum of councillors for the Town of Pelham informally met to discuss a possible donation from a cannabis producer on January 9, 2020, contrary to the open meeting rules of the Municipal Act, 2001. The Ombudsman found that the informal discussion did not contravene the Municipal Act’s open meeting requirements as the discussion did not materially advance council business as required by the Municipal Act. However, the Ombudsman found that the Town of Pelham acted without legal authority when it took action following this informal discussion. By failing to act through resolution and confirming by-law passed at a properly constituted council meeting, the municipality tried to shield its decision-making process from public scrutiny. These actions were contrary to law and wrong under section 21(1) of the Ombudsman Act.


Town of Pelham

June 10, 202010 June 2020
The Ombudsman received a complaint alleging that councillors for the Town of Pelham voted via email on whether they would be in favour of accepting a possible donation. The Ombudsman found that the email exchange did not contravene the Municipal Act’s open meeting requirements, which typically apply to “meetings” were a quorum of councillors is physically present. However, the Ombudsman found that the Town of Pelham acted without legal authority when it took action following this informal email exchange. By failing to act through resolution and confirming by-law passed at a properly constituted council meeting, the municipality tried to shield its decision-making process from public scrutiny. These actions were contrary to law and wrong under section 21(1) of the Ombudsman Act.
 

Municipality of Lambton Shores

August 02, 201902 August 2019

The Ombudsman received a complaint about a gathering that two council members attended on April 14, 2019. Council for Lambton Shores is composed of nine council members. The new definition of "meeting" in the Municipal Act, 2001 requires that a quorum of members be physically present in order for a gathering to be subject to open meeting requirements.

Township of Wollaston

June 28, 201928 June 2019

The Ombudsman received a complaint regarding the attendance of three councillors at an April 30, 2019 public proceeding of the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal. The complaint alleged that the councillors’ attendance amounted to a “meeting” under the Municipal Act, 2001 and was therefore subject to the Act’s open meeting rules. The Ombudsman found that the three council members did not discuss the subject matter of the proceeding with any of the councillors, municipal staff, or other parties in attendance. Accordingly, the Ombudsman determined that the councillors did not contravene the Act’s open meeting requirements because they did not do anything that materially advanced the business or decision-making of council.

City of Hamilton

February 22, 201922 February 2019

Members of council for the City of Hamilton did not contravene the open meeting rules in the Municipal Act, 2001 when they exchanged emails regarding a vacant council seat in June 2018. The new definition of “meeting” in the Act requires that a quorum be present, such that an exchange of emails cannot be considered a meeting subject to the open meeting rules. In the interest of openness and transparency, municipal councils should continue to avoid conducting business outside of a formal meeting.

Village of Casselman

August 21, 201821 August 2018

The Ombudsman reviewed two information sessions relating to the business of the municipality attended by a quorum of council for the Village of Casselman. The Ombudsman found that the council members did not materially advance the business of the municipality during these information sessions. The council members only received information about ongoing projects in the municipality. There was no discussion among the council members present and no decisions were made. Even though the Ombudsman found that these information sessions did not constitute meetings under the Municipal Act, 2001, in the interests of openness and transparency he encouraged council to receive information and updates of this nature during public meetings.

Township of Front of Yonge

June 29, 201829 June 2018

The Ombudsman reviewed an informal gathering of three council members after a regular council meeting for the Township of Front of Yonge. The Ombudsman found that the three council members may have remained in council chambers after the regular meeting had finished, however, they did not discuss council business. Accordingly, an improper meeting did not occur.