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Ombudsman investigation underway

Resident calls out council for lack of transparency

oshawa city hall (web)By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

It’s not clear how long it will take the ombudsman to figure out whether Oshawa city council met inappropriately on Dec. 17, but a city policy could help speed up the process.

It was noted in the Ontario’s Ombudsman’s 2015 annual report that only 17 of Ontario’s 444 municipalities actually record their closed meetings – Oshawa is one of them.

This fact will make the ombudsman’s office work much easier when it investigates the complaint that council disobeyed the Municipal Act by closing the meeting without a valid reason.

“The fact that Oshawa records its open and closed meetings, as our office recommends, helps speed the investigation process,” Linda Williamson, the director of communications with the Ombudsman’s office, tells The Oshawa Express in an emailed statement.

Councillors have voted to send the proper recordings to the ombudsman’s office.

The councillors also received some flak from former mayoral candidate Rosemary McConkey who, in the same meeting, attacked council’s lack of transparency by hiding behind the guise of an “education and training session.” Her delegation request on the topic had previously been turned down at the committee level.

“The following occurrences…seem to show a local government failing to uphold its accountability and principles of openness and transparency,” she writes in her correspondence.

The last few brushes with Ontario’s watchdog, a pair of which occurred in 2013, both ruled that Oshawa closed their meetings properly.

Following the investigation, Williamson says the report will be drafted and sent to city hall where Oshawa will have a chance to review and respond to it before it is made public.

This may not be the last time the ombudsman is investigating at city hall in 2016 either.

Williamson confirms that under the watchdog’s new jurisdiction provided by Bill 8, the office has received three specific complaints about Oshawa since the change came into affect in January. Specific details about the complaints were not provided.

In total, the ombudsman has received more than 370 complaints since January 1.