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How to Join the LAS Closed Meeting Investigator Program
As of January 1, 2008 any person (this means anyone!) will be able to request that an investigation be undertaken respecting whether a municipality or local board, or a committee of either, has complied with the closed meeting rules contained within the Municipal Act. Municipalities will be able to appoint an Investigator for this purpose. If a municipality chooses not to appoint an Investigator, the Provincial Ombudsman will be able to assume the role.
What should be considered in appointing an Investigator?
A municipality could appoint any person, corporation or individual, including a member of municipal staff, to conduct investigations pursuant to Section 239.2 of the Act.
In making its selection, a municipal Council should consider the intent and wording of the Act. Sections 239.1 and 239.2 were enacted to enhance transparency and accountability. Council needs to consider if its choice achieves that goal.
As well, the Act specifically speaks to impartiality, credibility, confidentiality, and independence with respect to the investigation process. Council must consider these factors also.
Why appoint LAS as Investigator?
LAS decided to offer this service for several reasons. The first is that it is complementary to its existing program of providing services to municipalities where value can be enhanced through group procurement.
Secondly, LAS believes that this initiative will assist municipalities in demonstrating that they are mature and accountable orders of government, capable of managing their own affairs. The business model for the program ensures that all Investigators will possess extensive knowledge of and appreciation for the municipal environment.
Thirdly, through this joint initiative, LAS will include an educational component, to a degree not possible if municipalities act independently or in smaller cooperative groups. In the longer term, information and municipal education will ensure transparency and accountability, ultimately reducing the frequency of requests for closed meeting investigations.
How Does a Municipality Appoint LAS as Investigator?
Prior to January 1, 2008, a municipality can appoint LAS to be its investigator, effective January 1, 2008. A municipality can also appoint LAS at any time after January 1, but LAS cannot act as Investigator for any requests made between January 1, 2008 and the date of appointment. The Provincial Ombudsman takes on this role.
To appoint LAS as Investigator a municipality must: execute a Service Agreement with LAS, pass an appointment by-law (and provide LAS with a copy), and pay a retainer fee. A suggested appointment by-law will be provided by LAS, which reflects the intention of LAS to delegate its authority to a third party company, Amberley Gavel Ltd, specifically set up for the purpose of providing an Investigator Service. This company will provide a panel of experienced and trained individuals who will conduct the investigations. This company has received delegated authority from LAS under an agreement that has been executed between the parties.
What are the Fees for Investigation Services?
There are two types of fees with respect to a municipality’s agreement with LAS. The first is the annual retainer, and the second is the daily rate for actual investigations (if required), along with out of pocket expenses.
The purpose of the retainer is to cover the costs associated with training, developing educational material to be provided to municipalities, liability insurance and administrative overhead.
Daily fees and reasonable out of pocket expenses related to any Investigation will be charged directly to the municipality or local board by Amberley Gavel Ltd. It is anticipated that a credible investigation process will require a minimum of a half day’s time even if it is determined that the complaint does not merit a complete investigation or if the request ends up being withdrawn.
LAS will enhance the program for all participating municipalities in a number of ways:
- There will be a password protected website provided by Amberley Gavel available to participating municipalities which will include a repository of all of the reports made to date and other relevant information
- We will provide information on the Amberley Gavel panel of Investigators and will ensure that the Investigators represent a broad cross-section of the province and that investigations are available in both English and French
- There will also be detailed information and suggestions on closed meeting processes as part of an ongoing educational program
For more information please contact:
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