BRUCE COUNTY – The ombudsman’s report stemming from a complaint about four closed meetings by Bruce County’s executive committee has been published on the ombudsman’s website.
The report stated complaints had been received about meetings held on Sept. 21, 2017; Aug. 2 and Sept. 6, 2018; and Jan. 10, 2019.
The ombudsman found the committee did not contravene the Municipal Act, 2001 when it proceeded in camera on Aug. 2, 2018. However, it did contravene the Act on Sept. 21, 2017 and Sept. 6, 2018.
The committee held a brief in camera discussion on Jan. 10, 2019 about a new position for a specified individual, which was appropriately discussed in camera; however, other matters discussed did not fit within closed meeting exceptions.
The May 20, 2022 report stated that the ombudsman’s office became the closed meeting investigator for Bruce County on Jan. 1, 2021. Prior to that, closed meeting investigators found a number of closed meetings held over the last several years were improperly closed, according to the Municipal Act, 2001. As a result, the county made changes to its open meeting practices to improve transparency. The meetings included in the present investigation were conducted prior to the training. The report noted several people stated the four meetings do not reflect the county’s current meeting practices.
The recommendations listed in the May 20, 2022 report stat that “all members of the executive committee for Bruce County should be vigilant in adhering to their individual and collective obligation to ensure that the municipality complies with its responsibilities under the Municipal Act, 2001 and its procedure bylaw.”
The recommendations further stated that no subject should be discussed in closed session “unless it clearly comes within one of the statutory exceptions to the open meeting requirements” and that the committee should ensure its closed session votes comply with the act.
There was some question about the information that was recorded; the recommendations state the committee should “ensure that meeting records are complete and accurately reflect all of the substantive and procedural items that were discussed.” As a “best practice,” the county should make audio or video recordings of its proceedings, including closed meetings.
Pauline Kerr, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Walkerton Herald Times