Centre Wellington appoints John Maddox closed meeting investigator

ELORA – Centre Wellington is using John Maddox as its closed meeting investigator for another term, but not without some objection. 

Wellington County pays Maddox’s retainer for any member municipality that chooses to appoint him as its closed meeting investigator. If a complaint is made the municipality pays Maddox’s expenses. 

The alternative is to use the Ontario Ombudsman’s office at no charge to the municipality. 

Clerk Kerri O’Kane explained that in 2006 the province gave municipalities the authority to appoint their own closed meeting investigators and since 2008 Centre Wellington has used an independent investigator rather than the ombudsman. 

Maddox would be responsible for each individual municipality where he is appointed, O’Kane said, whereas the ombudsman is responsible for 444 municipalities. 

“The challenge with that, what I’m hearing from you, is the time lapse … could be substantial compared to if we had our own meeting investigator,” Mayor Kelly Linton said. 

O’Kane clarified  Maddox would have 30 days to respond to a complaint whereas the ombudsman doesn’t have a time frame. O’Kane said the municipality has only ever had one closed meeting investigation.

“A private investigator for this council would have to deal with this council and would have to deal with it much quicker and that way when a resident complains it’s their priority,” said councillor Neil Dunsmore. 

“So I think that they would get to it a little quicker.”

Councillor Stephen Kitras said he’d looked into the matter as well. 

“I’ve contacted the ombudsman and … in the seriousness of the issues they rate issues and they respond accordingly,” he said. 

“They don’t just sort of have a timeline; if something’s more serious then they will address it quicker.”

Kitras said he’d talked to a former ombudsman about the options. 

“He thought investigators to be more biased towards the corporate structure as a opposed to the people’s interests,” Kitras said.

Therefore he suggested using the ombudsman instead of a private closed meeting investigator. 

Council voted in favour of retaining Maddox with only Kitras opposed. 

Maddox will be the municipality’s closed meeting investigator for a four-year term, commencing Dec. 1, 2018.