Ombudsman cautions TLTI over private meeting

LANSDOWNE – The Ontario Ombudsman says it won’t be taking action on a complaint concerning Leeds and the Thousand Islands township council in regard to a closed door meeting in the spring.

The Ombudsman received a complaint about the meeting on April 18, 2016, concerning succession planning for the chief administrative officer’s position.

In his September 8, 2016 report, Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dube said he would instead be making suggestions to improve closed meeting practices.

According to the minutes from the meeting cited in the report, the closed door discussion concerned “specific skills and work experience of identified employees, who were being considered for the interim Chief Administrative Officer role,” which is permitted in-camera.

But the issue, which was the subject of the complaint, was a brief discussion about the CAO hiring process.

“Although general consideration of the CAO hiring process would not have fit within this exception, our review indicates that any such discussions were brief and incidental to the main discussion. The hiring process was discussed in open session at a subsequent Committee of the Whole meeting,” Dube wrote.

The meeting was called three days after then-CAO Milena Avramovic announced she was leaving to take a similar position in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

As for Dube’s suggestions on improving closed meeting procedures, his one suggestion is to make sure there’s enough detail in the public notice about a closed-door meeting to keep the public fully informed while protecting the information from disclosure.

Dube took issue with the notice for the closed meeting, saying it only provided the exception for the closed meeting – in this case “personal matters about an identifiable individual” – but gave no additional information.

It’s not the first time the municipality has run afoul of the Ontario Ombudsman.

In June 2015, the TLTI council was admonished by then-Ombudsman Andre Marin for holding two secret meetings and advancing township business through email in December 2014 before the council was sworn into office.

The only saving grace for council at that time was councillors weren’t officially sworn in but they had broken the “spirit” of the law, Marin ruled.

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