OPP costing committee broke rules

(Newswatch Group/File)

BROCKVILLE – The Ontario Ombudsman says an OPP costing committee went outside the rules when it held a closed door meeting earlier this year.

In his ruling, Paul Dube said his office followed up on two complaints about the March 7, 2016 meeting of the OPP Contact Adhoc Commitee for the City of Brockville.

The committee was meeting for the first time with the OPP to go over the costing process, following the province’s lifting of a moratorium.

The meeting went into closed session under an exemption for “education and training” members of the committee.

While that was okay, Dube noted that the committee members broke the rules when it voted to have staff approach an audit firm to assess the OPP costing, once it was completed.

Private meetings are allowed for training and education, as long as no votes are taken that materially advances the business of the municipality, according to municipal law.

“When the committee voted to direct staff to approach the audit firm, it went beyond the educational purpose of the OPP’s presentation about its general costing process,” Dube wrote.

In the report, Mayor David Henderson defended the committee’s actions, saying the audit firm had been approved before in an open meeting in 2013 but had not acted on it because of the moratorium.

The ombudsman also cited the city’s out-of-date procedural bylaw which “fails to reflect the current procedural requirements of the Municipal Act.” It hasn’t been updated since 1994.

In its defence, the city clerk said the city has been working to draft a new procedural bylaw.

The report also cites other procedural problems with the committee, such as having a better description for why meetings are going into closed session and reporting back from a private meeting to an open session, which didn’t happen on March 7, 2016, the report stated.

The Ontario Ombudsman has made five recommendations to the city:

  • All committee members should comply with the Municipal Act and procedural bylaw
  • No subject is discussed in closed session unless it comes under the exceptions to open meetings
  • A resolution should clearly state why the meeting is going into closed session
  • The committee should adopt a best practice for reporting back
  • The city should review and amend its procedural bylaw to reflect the Municipal Act regarding closed meeting provisions.

Dube has recommended the report be shared with Brockville city council and the public as soon as possible.