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The Ombudsman found that council for the City of Greater Sudbury’s closed session discussion of third-party commercial and financial information on July 12, 2022 fit within the exception for information supplied in confidence by a third party. The Ombudsman found that the third-party information, which related to bids for a proposed municipal project, was supplied in confidence and that the public disclosure of the information could prejudice significantly the bidders' competitive positions in the bidding process or interfere with their contractual or other negotiations.
The Ombudsman received a complaint alleging that council for the Town of South Bruce Peninsula improperly met in closed session to receive a delegation on March 16, 2021, contrary to the Municipal Act, 2001. The Ombudsman’s review determined that council received and discussed detailed information from a third party company regarding that company’s development plans, expected profits, and intended use of proprietary technology. We were told that the third party specifically wished to discuss this commercial information in private because it did not want to prejudice a pending land transaction or alert competitors to the proprietary technology it intended to rely on to create a profitable business in a specific area. The Ombudsman found this closed session discussion was permissible under section 239(2)(i) of the Municipal Act as council discussed information supplied in confidence by a third party that, if disclosed, could reasonably be expected to significantly prejudice the competitive position of the business and significantly interfere with an ongoing land transaction.
The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the Township of Alfred and Plantagenet. Council closed a meeting to discuss matters under, among other exceptions, the personal matters exception. During the closed session, council added an item to the in camera agenda with respect to a consulting firm’s bid to conduct an organizational study of the municipality. The individuals working at the firm and their qualifications were identified in the proposal documents. However, the Ombudsman found that the personal matters exception did not apply in the circumstances because the discussion was in the context of a proposed professional relationship with the township.
The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the City of Timmins to discuss an open procurement project. During the meeting, council discussed publicly available information about the proprietors of one of the bidding companies, including their business history, and expressed opinions on whether or not the company was suitable for the project based on that history. The Ombudsman found that the discussion was limited to information that was publicly available and did not reveal any personal information. Although it was not cited by the municipality, the Ombudsman found that the discussion did not fit within the personal matters exception.
The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the Township of Russell to discuss a proposed business plan for installing services in a local commercial and industrial area in the municipality. The meeting was closed under the personal matters exception. Council reviewed a staff report that included information about local businesses in the area including company name and legal identity, the proprietor, address, the size of the lot, and the cost of the services improvement for the property. The Ombudsman found that council’s discussion and the report did not reveal personal information about individual property owners and any individuals identified by name used the land for a business purpose. Therefore, the discussion did not fit within the personal matters exception.
The Ombudsman reviewed a joint closed meeting held by council for the Village of Burk’s Falls and council for Armour Township which relied on the personal matters exception to discuss a number of items including possible amalgamation of the two municipalities. The names of business owners considering developments in the area were discussed. The Ombudsman found that the discussion about individual business owners was strictly in a professional context, which did not reveal anything of a personal nature. Therefore, the discussion did not fit within the personal matters exception.