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Ombudsman’s report in final stages

Investigation on closed city meeting should be ready "in the next few weeks"

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

It has been more than six months, but the public will soon know what the provincial ombudsman discovered behind the closed doors of Oshawa council’s Dec. 17 meeting.

That meeting, closed for an education and training session with the Oshawa Power and Utilities Corporation (OPUC), has been under the Ontario Ombudsman’s microscope following an anonymous complaint that the meeting was improperly closed to the public.

Was that the case? Well, the ombudsman has its answer, sent to council in a draft report late last month, prior to councillors leaving for their summer recess. The confidential report was sent to all members of council. In a 90-minute-plus closed meeting on June 27, councillors discussed the report and seemingly provided their comments on the watchdog’s findings, because after the session, a motion was passed that stated, “staff be directed to prepare a draft letter to be sent by the Mayor to the Office of the Ontario Ombudsman conveying comments respecting the Ombudsman’s draft report…which comments shall generally reflect Council’s closed session consideration of the draft report.”

The motion, put forward by Councillor Nancy Diamond and seconded by Councillor Dan Carter, also asked for permission to have the deadline for retaining the report and providing comments be extended to July 8. The original deadline is listed in the confidential document. It was unclear whether that request was granted, and no further details were provided by the ombudsman’s office

“I really can’t say anything right now about the status of the report,” said, Linda Williamson, spokesperson for the ombudsman’s office. “But as soon as it is finalized by the Ombudsman and sent to the city, we will also make it public on our website.”

In a June 30 emailed statement, Williamson told The Oshawa Express that following receipt of the city’s comments, “it will not take long for us to finalize the report and make it public,” she said.

“I don’t have any fixed dates for this to happen, but I would expect it to be finalized in the next few weeks.”

In the ombudsman’s two most recent investigations at city hall, both in 2013 surrounding the controversial auditor general report AG-13-09 and the acquisition of 199 Wentworth Street East, the watchdog found no wrongdoing by council.

Oshawa council also saw four complaints between April 2011 and August 2012, none of which led to the discovery of any wrongdoing.

However, in both 2008 and 2009, Oshawa council was found to be contravening the Municipal Act when it closed a pair of meetings – one dealing with a recycling company subject to odour complaints and the second being a meeting with a private business regarding lobbying of the federal government.