Thursday, January 10, 2008

Haldimand "Really People We have Nothing to Hide!"

In accordance with Bill 130-The Municipal Statue Law Amendment Act, Haldimand County recently had to amend some of it's by-laws. These amendments took place in December 2007.

A few of the changes to the Municipal Act 2001 came into effect January 1st 2008. One of these changes was that an individual could formally put in a complaint to the Ombudsman of Ontario regarding "closed sessions" of Council Meetings. The procedure would be that if you felt that your Council was carrying on business of the Municipality behind closed doors and you felt that they were doing this "wrongfully", the Ombudsman would investigate on your behalf.

The procedure for a formal complaint to the Ombudsman of Ontario is directed to the Ombudsman, either through mail, phone call or the Internet. The Ombudsman is an unbiased organization that investigates government bodies. There is no charge for this service to either parties involved. The Ombudsman has nothing to gain by this and in my opinion would work for the best interest of the people.

An option for Municipalities was to have an "independent" investigator. The Association of Municipalities of Ontario has trumped up to offer their services under the heading of Local Authority Services Ltd. (LAS), at a cost of $300.00 a year contract fee and a daily fee of $1,250.00 plus tax, and applicable expenses such as Lunch, gas etc., and this is based on an "8" hour day. LAS states that the average investigation should take "2" days.

Through the services of LAS, an individual that had a complaint would have to go to the Haldimand County Clerk's Office. The procedure would be that you go to the Haldimand County Clerk's office fill out a complaint form with background information and the county would forward your documentation to LAS. Once the complaint was put in, LAS would pull from their pool of investigators, these investigators would be individuals that are for an example past CAO's like Bill Pearce. In my opinion this is biased, as the AMO's mandate really is for the protection of the Municipality.

If a Municipality had not contacted the Ombudsman of Ontario by January 1st, 2008, the Ombudsman would automatically assume the investigation process until such a time that the Municipality would contact the Ombudsman and inform them of any changes. So really what I am saying is that there was no "emergency" for Haldimand County Council to make a decision.

Well obviously our "elected officials" here in Haldimand didn't want to waste a minute in making their decision, in fact they signed a "2" year contract! Haldimand County Council in a vote of 7-0 voted to adopt the services of LAS! I don't know about you, but I certainly have a problem with this decision. I wonder do we have that much money floating around? As there is no precedent set here of how many complaints could be presenting themselves, this could cost the taxpayer a huge amount of money.

There are a lot of residents out there that feel our county is behind closed doors more than they are in the public view. So my question is why on earth did this Council not see the wisdom of going with the Ombudsman? It would have certainly proved to a few of us that Council Members want the "residents" to have faith that our "local" officials take "transparency and accountability" seriously.

In my personal opinion, Council has just "closed the door right on our asses".

The following is some background information about what has been going on in the past few months;

"Ontario cities, including London, are being misled by their own lobby group over its plan to investigate public complaints about closed-door council meetings, Ontario's ombudsman says."

"The AMO clearly has a live business interest in generating revenue from towns and cities, a conflict which is not made apparent," Marin wrote in a terse letter to AMO head Doug Reycraft.

At the heart of Marin's swipe is a requirement for all Ontario municipalities to appoint by Jan. 1 someone to investigate public complaints about closed council meetings. Marin has offered to provide the service for free.

AMO has offered to councils a group of retired municipal administrators, known as Local Authority Services Ltd. It would charge $1,200 a day while probing complaints.

So far, 28 municipalities (there are over 400 municipalities in Ontario) have decided to hire LAS. But Sarnia, led by Mayor Mike Bradley, decided to go with the ombudsman and his free-of-charge service.

While London's board of control is recommending taking the AMO option, one controller says Marin's objections should be a red flag for council.

"I certainly would be listening to his position," Gina Barber said. "The whole proposal from the AMO just creates a situation that's too cosy.

"AMO does some wonderful work for us, but here we're talking not about what's going to be done for us, but what's going to be done for the public."

Back off, says ombudsman Peterborough Examiner Friday, Nov. 30, 2007

Ontario's ombudsman says he wants the provincial association of municipalities to back off on its personal, inflammatory, inaccurate and misleading statements about his office.

André Marin made the request last week in an open letter to the Association of Municipalities of Ontario that he posted on the ombudsman's office website,

The two are at odds over the provision of investigative services for closed- door meetings held by municipal councils.

As of Jan. 1, people will be able to file complaints, which could lead to an investigation, when they believe a meeting has been wrongly closed to the public.

The Association of Municipalities of Ontario has created a pool of investigators that municipalities can pay to use, while the ombudsman's office has offered to provide the service for free.

Marin used an example from Peterborough, attaching a copy of an Examiner story to his letter, to illustrate how the municipal association is competing for the work.

"The 'key messages' contained in the AMO's position statement are fraught with personal, inflammatory and - most importantly - inaccurate and misleading statements," Marin states.

"Such inaccuracies do a disservice to citizens who expect and deserve an intelligent, principled debate on the issue of open government at the municipal level."

"Peterborough County, and several of its townships, have gone with an independent investigator who's a former chief administrator of another county."

The association clearly has a business interest in generating revenue, a conflict which is not made apparent in its position statement, Marin states. The association put together the service on a cost recovery basis, said Doug Reycraft, president.

"It's not intended to be a money maker," he said. "It's one option that's out there. Some municipalities may choose it, some may choose to use the ombudsman, others may appoint an individual they believe is qualified to make the investigation."

"All of Ontario's 445 municipalities are currently scrambling to comply with a new requirement under the Municipal Act to appoint someone to look into public complaints by Jan. 1."

"AMO, through its Local Authority Services Limited, has seen a business opportunity and moved to fill it with a team of investigators a sort of retirement home for municipal bureaucrats that it's actively marketing to municipalities."

"The Ombudsman, whose services are free, has proven an effective watchdog that investigates government maladministration with honesty and integrity."

AMO's mandate; (The Association of Municipalities of Ontario)


The mandate of the organization is to support and enhance strong and effective municipal government in Ontario. It promotes the value of the municipal level of government as a vital and essential component of Ontario and Canada's political system.

Local Authority Services Ltd. (LAS)

LAS was created in 1992 by AMO to deliver programs and services that help municipalities reduce the cost of "common expenditures and increase revenues."

LAS has established a bulk electricity procurement program for all interested municipalities. This program is expected to realize substantial savings for municipalities for all electricity consumption, including street lighting accounts.

The Natural Gas Program currently purchases more than 10,000GJ of natural gas for over 2,200 physical locations within 175 municipalities and other public sector organizations. In 2006 the program provided members with 14% savings compared to utility gas rates.

The ONE Funds investment program, jointly operated with the CHUMS Financing Corp. offers a diversified way for municipalities to invest short-term and long-term surplus funds. Recently an Equity Fund was launched as a way for municipalities to leverage new investment powers provided by the Province.


  1. I am very sad to say that this does not surprise me in the least. It is a shame that myself and others have no faith in our elected officials. They just hammered another nail! In other words, they have locked us out, and there is nothing we can do about it!

    What a shame, and shame on them for not being open and transparent.

  2. You are right Donna the people have nothing to hide, but it seems that Haldimand County has something to hide!

  3. I wonder if the local papers will do a story on this one. Or did council just slip this one past everyone as well. I am glad that council is being responsible with our money. Bring on that forensic audit!

  4. What better way to hide your sins than to investigate it yourself. I'm sorry but even the police are subject to the OCCPS if they mess up. Local governments need to be investigated by an independent third party such as the ombudsman's office to ensure objective opinions.

    Lisa Parent

  5. Thanks for your comments.

    At the time that I posted this story, I e-mailed LAS requesting the names of the investigators.

    I sent a second request this morning, as I have had no response to my first request.

    Maybe I am e-mailing the wrong people, maybe I need to e-mail the Haldimand County Clerk for this information, as that is how the complaint process works.

    I will update you when I receive an answer.