Let’s get things out in the open at c...

Let’s get things out in the open at councils

Posted in the Georgetown Forum

about time

North Bay, Canada

#1 Nov 25, 2012
Let’s get things out in the open

Ontario municipal councillors should hold fewer closed meetings, record them electronically and be more mindful of public concerns when they gather outside of council chambers, Ontario Ombudsman André Marin said in a report released recently.

Under the Municipal Act, all meetings of councils, committees and local boards must be open to the public, unless they meet certain narrow requirements.

Although most municipalities tend to follow the rules, he found there’s still a “marked disparity” across the province in how councils operate.

“Some are shockingly secretive, suspicious and resentful of the very idea they can be investigated,” Marin said in a news release.“And many are well-intentioned but baffled by the complexity of the law.”

The Ombudsman’s report highlights 128 complaints received and reviewed by his office’s Open Meeting Law Enforcement Team from April 1, 2011 to August 31, 2012.

The report also reflects on the state of the Sunshine Law in Ontario — the public complaints system that came into effect in 2008.

He and the team found 45 violations of the Sunshine Law, ranging from procedural errors to blatant flouting of the rules — such as councils voting illegally behind closed doors and failing to keep records.

Local municipal councils — both Milton council and Halton regional council — weren’t highlighted as problematic in the Ombudsman’s report.

However, it might be prudent for our local councillors — if they haven’t already — to revisit their procedures to ensure they’re compliant with the act.

Marin’s report should be a stark reminder for all municipal councils that the more transparent a municipal council is, the better the public is served

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