Bill 130 - 101 Level 1 - Some information and comments

I said earlier today that I was going to explain this issue the best I could. Sometimes when you are involved in something it is not clear to you that others perhaps do not get what you talking about. Someone who I respect said they did not get the issue and I realized they are far from being alone.

Those that watch Municipal happenings are a small minority but you can be assured we have your best interest at heart! :) well most of us anyways. *wink*

In October or early November I was reading about the upcoming Provincial legislation that Municipalities were going to have to appoint a closed meeting investigator. This was mandatory by January 1, 2008 or the default closed meeting investigator is the Office of the Ontario Ombudsman.

Does everyone know what a closed meeting is? Put your hands up.

A closed meeting is when a local council or board (but not a school board) meets away from the public view and the public is not allowed. There are some rules that *must* be followed for a closed meeting to take place and these rules are as follows. The source is the municipal act.

Meetings open to public

239. (1) Except as provided in this section, all meetings shall be open to the public. 2001, c. 25, s. 239 (1).

Exceptions

(2) A meeting or part of a meeting may be closed to the public if the subject matter being considered is,

(a) the security of the property of the municipality or local board;

(b) personal matters about an identifiable individual, including municipal or local board employees;

(c) a proposed or pending acquisition or disposition of land by the municipality or local board;

(d) labour relations or employee negotiations;

(e) litigation or potential litigation, including matters before administrative tribunals, affecting the municipality or local board;

(f) advice that is subject to solicitor-client privilege, including communications necessary for that purpose;

(g) a matter in respect of which a council, board, committee or other body may hold a closed meeting under another Act. 2001, c. 25, s. 239 (2).

Then they added one more reason they could meet behind closed doors but it is not really a meeting, it’s called Training!

Educational or training sessions

(3.1) A meeting of a council or local board or of a committee of either of them may be closed to the public if the following conditions are both satisfied:

1. The meeting is held for the purpose of educating or training the members.

2. At the meeting, no member discusses or otherwise deals with any matter in a way that materially advances the business or decision-making of the council, local board or committee. 2006, c. 32, Sched. A, s. 103 (1).

Everyone with me now? Before they can close that door on you and I a few things have to be done and there are rules about it also, it’s called notice and an explanation as to which one of the above reasons the door is being closed for. Some Municipalities explain in a little more detail then others as to why the door is closed. The reasons are also rather vague because in this town point “e” the one related to Litigation is ongoing and never ending!

This must be completed first:

Resolution

(4) Before holding a meeting or part of a meeting that is to be closed to the public, a municipality or local board or committee of either of them shall state by resolution,

(a) the fact of the holding of the closed meeting and the general nature of the matter to be considered at the closed meeting; or

(b) in the case of a meeting under subsection (3.1), the fact of the holding of the closed meeting, the general nature of its subject-matter and that it is to be closed under that subsection. 2001, c. 25, s. 239 (4); 2006, c. 32, Sched. A, s. 103 (2).

Recap: The Province gave Municipalities one more reason to meet behind closed doors but with that reason came more accountability. Bill 130 has some optional positions that could be filled, they are in the Staff report I have on a page in the Pages section.
I have links to the Ombudsman website also and in the archives of this blog in the November month, more posts. Again it is the Closed Meeting investigator we are dealing with currently.

Here is an example of a closed meeting Agenda. Town of Ajax complies with the above stated rules.

3. In-Camera <——- closed door

3.1 Adoption of In Camera Minutes - February 21, 2007

3.2 Confidential Property Matter

3.3 Confidential Property Matter (verbal)

3.4 Confidential Legal Property Update (verbal)

3.5 Confidential Personnel Matter (verbal)

Now if you have a problem with a meeting and think it does not meet the legislation requirements you as a citizen are now given a right to complain via a complaint process put in place.

At this point is where the debate begins and decisions need to be made.
This is where you expect your elected officials and Town Administration to do what is expected of them.

It comes down to the choice of paying a retainer fee of $600.00 for two years plus daily investigative fees of $1,250.00 plus expenses to a new unproven program created specifically for this requirement to Local Authority Services(LAS) or not doing anything and giving the Citizens the right to go directly to the Office of the Ontario Ombudsman.
Two of our Councillors agreed with me after first voting for LAS in the General Governmental committee, they were open to more information and they were asking for it.

LAS review officers are ex-municipal employees and the chance for conflict is higher then with the investigative team of the Ombudsman office. Municipal employees move all over the place sometimes. If I remember correctly , Whitby’s last CAO came from Hamilton.
The choice of LAS is not impartial enough in many people’s opinions. LAS is the Provincial Lobby Group AMO. AMO lobby’s the government on behalf of municipalities.

The Town of Ajax did not give this impending action much thought at all and they waited until the last minute to do something and it was by chance I even found out about it.

Municipalities are entities (creatures-children-brats) of the Province and that will not change and I would prefer to know I can go to the big boss if I have a major problem. We love the Ombudsman for what he has done for Ontarians in the areas of MPAC, Ontario Lottery Corporation, Health-care and now he will be looking into how new home-buyers are protected. There was an article last week in the Toronto Sun by Alan Shanoff . I emailed him to tell him how much I liked it and timing was perfect. I told him about what was happening here and guess what, he emailed me back the same day unlike some other people who shall remain nameless. I never even knew who the Ombudsman was until Andre Marin came into the job.

At the November 26th 2007 Council meeting I challenged them to invite the Ombudsman to hear their information because they were never contacted, their procedures were not included in the Town Staff report. The council was not presented with everything they needed to know. The LAS contract can be terminated with 90 days notice.

I want to overturn that vote as I feel — yes I feel— it is invalid.

I do not want the Town to have to pay money for a service that could prove costly if someone does decide to pay $125.00 dollars, it won’t be me but perhaps a developer may have a problem, $1,250 daily investigative fees to LAS. $0.00 to Ombudsman.

I do not believe the service of Amberley Gavel contracted by LAS is impartial enough because they also work as consultants for municipalities, Ombudsman investigators do not also market their services to Municipalities as side jobs.

How can someone market themselves to Municipalities for their main income and then turn around and conduct a thorough and detailed investigation? They can’t!

This decision was made in a blink of an eye at the Durham Region Level. Ajax tried to rush it through but I got in the way however I failed in my attempt.

March 17th - Whitby will be making the decision to vote for LAS or remain with the Ombudsman that they currently by default as of January 1st had. No complaints to date.
The news article (on the pages list) in November after Ajax went with LAS gave the impression Whitby had already gone with LAS not in the process as per the Staff Report.

Now Citizens of Ajax, it is up to you. Voice your opinion on this and if you still do not understand the issue, email me call the Ombudsman office but do something. This is your rights we are talking about. Tell the Mayor what you think here is his email.

People we need the Ombudsman! Ajax deserves nothing less. It is FREE!!!!!!

I created a petition where you can voice your opinion for a free and transparent government.

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