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The Ombudsman received a complaint alleging that council for the City of Owen Sound violated the open meeting rules found in the Municipal Act, 2001 on March 14, 2022. At the time, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, council chambers – where council and committee meetings are held by the City – were closed to members of the public; the public was, instead, given the option to watch the proceedings via livestream. The complaint alleged that the council meeting held on this date was improperly closed to the public because the public could not see who was present or how each council member voted, as that information was not displayed on the screen. The Ombudsman found that there was no contravention of the Act or the City’s procedural by-law; there is no requirement that the public be able to see who is present in council chambers, and the public was able to see the results of each vote during the meeting.
The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the City of Welland to appoint a new member of council. The meeting was closed under the personal matters exception. During the closed session, council voted by way of secret ballot to select a candidate to fill the council vacancy. The Ombudsman found that the vote was improper as it was not taken during a properly closed meeting and was not for a procedural matter or to provide direction to staff. The Ombudsman also found that ballot voting is prohibited by the Municipal Act, 2001, with limited exceptions, and such votes are of no effect.
The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the City of Timmins to discuss the recruitment process for replacing a staff member. The meeting was closed under the personal matters exception. During the meeting, council used a secret ballot process to elect committee members to a hiring committee. The Ombudsman found that the discussion did not fit within the cited exception. Accordingly, the voting was not permissible. Further, the Municipal Act, 2001 prohibits voting by way of secret ballot.
The Ombudsman reviewed a closed meeting held by council for the Township of Baldwin. The meeting was closed under the labour relations or employee negotiations exception. During the meeting, council voted to select a candidate for the position of municipal works foreman using a secret ballot. Council then directed staff to offer the position to the candidate who received the most votes through the secret ballot process. The Ombudsman found that while voting on a direction to staff is permitted in a closed meeting, this direction came from a secret ballot vote which is a violation of the Municipal Act, 2001.