Why Do Municipal Councils and Local Boards Have Meetings or Portions of Meetings That Are Closed To The Public?
Municipal councils, local boards and their committees must meet behind closed doors on occasion to deal with some matters. For example, if a municipality is being sued or if council is considering purchasing a piece of land or if council must deal with a labour relations issue then it is appropriate that it be able to do so at a closed meeting. The purpose of such a closed meeting is to receive information or give direction.
Local government in Ontario must be transparent and accountable. To this end, the Province has set the rules for a council, local board or a committee to go into a closed meeting. These rules are found in Section 239 of the Municipal Act, 2001, as amended. They must be strictly followed. As a result, Niagara Falls City Council passed a Corporate Policy regarding Accountability & Transparency in December of 2007.
The permitted reasons for going into a closed meeting are:
- The security of property of the municipality or local board;
- Personal matters about an identifiable individual, including employees;
- A proposed or pending acquisition or disposition of land;
- Labour relations or employee negotiations;
- Litigation or potential litigation;
- Advice that is subject to solicitor-client privilege;
- A matter authorized by another provincial statute;
- The meeting is held for educating an training and no member discusses or deals with a matter in a way that materially advances the business or decision-making of the council or local board.
Before council, a local board or a committee begins the closed meeting, it must pass a resolution at a public meeting indicating that a closed meeting is being held and what the general nature of the matter to be considered is. A closed meeting shall not be held by council, a local board or committee before this resolution is passed. Copies are available via the City’s web page.
Any person has the right to request an investigation as to whether the municipality, local board or committee complied with the closed meeting rules established by the Province or the Procedure By-law of the municipality or local board. A request must be in writing and should be directed to the municipal clerk. If the requestor is not satisfied with the explanation given by the clerk, then they can contact the Ombudsman directly.
If you have any questions about these closed meeting rules, contact the municipal Clerk:
City of Niagara Falls
4310 Queen Street
P. O. Box 1023
Niagara Falls, Ontario, L2E 6X5
Telephone: 905-356-7521, Ext. 4271
The Investigator for the City of Niagara Falls is the Office of the Ombudsman of Ontario. Their contact information is:
Staff are available 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. You may also leave a voice message outside of office hours.
Toll-free (inside Ontario only): 1-800-263-1830
Outside Ontario: 416-586-3300
TTY (teletypewriter): 1-866-411-4211
Office of the Ombudsman of Ontario
Bell Trinity Square
483 Bay Street, 10th Floor, South Tower