City must better explain nature of private meetings: Ombudsman

(Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston, File)

CORNWALL – Ontario’s Ombudsman has given the City of Cornwall a slap on the wrist, telling the corporation it must better identify the nature of private meetings.

This month’s ruling by Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dube follows a complaint about an in-camera meeting, held during a joint session of Cornwall and South Glengarry councils on Sept. 19 to discuss the future of the Cornwall Regional Airport.

A council is required by law to stipulate the nature of proceeding into closed session. In this case, the closed session at the Cornwall Civic Complex was held to discuss “personal matters about an identifiable individual, including municipal or local board employees.”

The councils were discussing a consultant’s report on the future governance of the airport but there was also an confidential addendum to the report, identifying airport commission members and aspects of their performance and their conduct.

After reviewing the material, Dube agreed the nature of the discussion in the closed meeting did fit the parameters for meeting in private.

But the explanation for going behind closed doors did not provide enough information to the public on what was going to be discussed, he ruled.

Citing case law from a case against the City of Kingston, “the resolution to go into closed session should provide a general description of the issue to be discussed in a way that maximizes the information available to the public while not undermining the reason for excluding the public,” Dube wrote.

His ruling indicates the City of Cornwall didn’t contravene the Municipal Act but failed in stating why it went in-camera.

Dube commended the city for already notifying him it will take action on his recommendation and “that it will make sure that its resolutions to proceed in camera always include information about the general subject matter of the discussion.”

The report is required to be shared at the next council meeting (on Dec. 11).