Open and Closed Meeting Information
The Province of Ontario has established rules for a Council, local board or a committee to go into a closed meeting through the Municipal Act, 2001, S.O. 2001, c.25, as amended. Any person or corporation may request that an investigation be undertaken respecting whether the closed meeting legislation has been contravened.
Open and Closed Meetings
The Municipal Act, 2001 includes provisions related to the transparency and accountability of council as well as certain local boards and committees, including the conduct of meetings. Transparent decision-making processes may be seen as part of foundation of the good municipal governance.
A key transparency rule for municipalities is the requirement that most municipal meetings be open to the public. There are limited exceptions where a closed meeting can be held. Open meeting rules recognize the importance of transparency in local decision-making.
There will be times, however, in the course of business where information should, or even must, be kept confidential.
Closing A Meeting
A meeting or part of a meeting may be closed to the public if the subject matter being considered is:
- the security of the property of the municipality or local board
- personal matters about an identifiable individual, including municipal or local board employees
- a proposed or pending acquisition or disposition of land by the municipality or local board
- labour relations or employee negotiations
- litigation or potential litigation, including matters before administrative tribunals, affecting the municipality or local board
- advice that is subject to solicitor-client privilege, including communications necessary for that purpose
- a matter in respect of which a council, board, committee or other body may hold a closed meeting under another Act
- information explicitly supplied in confidence to the municipality or local board by Canada, a province or territory or a Crown agency of any of them
- a trade secret or scientific, technical, commercial, financial or labour relations information, supplied in confidence to the municipality or local board, which, if disclosed, could reasonably be expected to prejudice significantly the competitive position or interfere significantly with the contractual or other negotiations of a person, group of persons, or organization
- a trade secret or scientific, technical, commercial or financial information that belongs to the municipality or local board and has monetary value or potential monetary value
- a position, plan, procedure, criteria or instruction to be applied to any negotiations carried on or to be carried on by or on behalf of the municipality or local board
A meeting or part of a meeting shall be closed to the public if the subject matter being considered is:
- a request under the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, if the council, board, commission or other body is the head of an institution for the purposes of that Act, or
- an ongoing investigation respecting the municipality, a local board or a municipally-controlled corporation by the Ontario Ombudsman, a municipal Ombudsman, or meeting investigator
Closing a meeting for education and training
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:
- the meeting is held for the purpose of educating or training the members
- 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
Closed Meeting Investigator
If a member of the public believes that a meeting or part of a meeting has been closed improperly, they may request that an investigation be conducted by a meeting investigator appointed by the municipality.
The Municipality has appointed Local Authority Services (LAS) as the Closed Meeting Investigator for the Municipality and has authorized them to conduct investigations. All requests for a closed meeting investigation are submitted to LAS for review and are to investigate accordingly.
If, after making an investigation, the investigator is of the opinion that the meeting or part of the meeting was closed improperly, the investigator shall report their opinion and the reasons for it to the municipality or local board, as the case may be, and may make such recommendations as he or she thinks fit.
The Act requires a municipality or local board to pass a resolution stating how it intends to address a report provided by a meeting investigator, where the investigator reports their opinion that a meeting appears to have been closed contrary to the open meetings provisions of the Act or a procedure bylaw.
How to Request an Investigation
Members of the public, including corporations, may submit requests through the Municipal Clerk relating to compliance with the Municipal Act, 2001 for meetings or part of meetings that are closed to the public.
The identity of the requestor will be treated as confidential by the Municipality and the Investigator, unless authorization is given by the requestor to release his or her identity.
The Request Form for a closed meeting investigation is available below or at the Municipal Clerk’s office.
All complaints must contain the following information:
- The name of the municipality
- Requestor’s name, mailing address, telephone number, and email address
- Date of the closed meeting under consideration
- Nature and background of the particular occurrence
- Any activities undertaken to resolve the concern
- Any other relevant information
- Direction with respect to release of identity
- Original signature
Once the request is received by the Clerk, the Clerk will enact the following procedures:
- Ensure that the requests remain confidential
- Assign a file number and record that number on the request
- Forward the request to the Municipal Closed Meeting Investigator by regular mail
For all requests, the Municipality shall supply the Investigator with the following information or documentation as requested by the Investigator related to a complaint:
- Certified copy of Notice of Meeting
- Certified copy of the agenda
- Certified copy of the minutes of the meeting
- Relevant resolutions
- Municipal contact list
- Any other documents requested
- Other Resources
The investigator upon receipt of a request has 30 days to respond.
Please mail or hand deliver to:
Municipality of Hastings Highlands
33011 Hwy. 62 North
ATT: Municipal Clerk – Suzanne Huschilt