Minto agrees to share meeting investigator, integrity commissioner

Town council here has agreed to go along with a plan to appoint an integrity commissioner in cooperation with other municipalities in the county.

Minto will also continue to share a closed meeting investigator with Wellington County and most member municipalities.

John Maddox, operating as JGM Consulting Inc., has been the investigator for Minto since 2014 through an agreement between the County of Wellington, JGM and six of the county’s seven member municipalities.

As of December 2017, Maddox will no longer operate his consulting firm, but will continue to provide services as an independent contractor. In October, Wellington County council supported a county administration, finance and personnel committee recommendation to re-appoint Maddox as the county’s investigator.

Under the agreement, the county will continue to cover an annual retainer to Maddox of $1,000 for the county and $300 for each member municipality. An hourly fee of $100, plus expenses, would be paid by the municipality in which an investigation is conducted.

“All the same terms are in the new agreement,” Minto deputy clerk Annilene McRobb advised council in a Dec. 5 report.

“Essentially nothing has changed except the name going from JGM Consulting to John Maddox.”

Council approved a recommendation in the report to re-appoint Maddox for 2018.

In November, the Township of Mapleton opted not to re-appoint Maddox, meaning the job will fall by default to the provincial Office of the Ombudsman.

Mapleton councillor Michael Martin pointed out council could avail itself of the Ombudsman’s services at no cost to the taxpayers. He also cited transparency concerns.

Along with the county, Wellington North, Centre Wellington, Erin and Puslinch have signed on with Maddox. Guelph-Eramosa contracts its investigative services through Local Authority Services, which works through the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.

Minto council also agreed to a recommendation in the report to enter into an agreement with Guy Giorno of Fasken Martineau law firm as the integrity commissioner for the municipality starting in 2019.

Under Bill 68, the Modernizing Municipal Legislation Act, all municipalities will be required to appoint an integrity commissioner by March 1, 2019. Previously, municipalities were allowed to opt for the job to default to the Ombudsman, which Minto council had decided to do in 2016.

McRobb explained clerks from across Wellington County recommended appointing a joint integrity commissioner similar to the set up with Maddox and county clerk Donna Bryce, Centre Wellington clerk Kerri O’Kane and McRobb interviewed Giorno, who serves as integrity commissioner for 20 Ontario municipalities.

Giorno will be paid $300 per hour for investigations, but will not be on a retainer.

McRobb’s report noted Minto currently has a code of conduct in place for council, staff and committees. It will be reviewed prior to March 1, 2019 to make sure it meets provincial mandates.

McRobb also updated council on other pending changes to the Municipal Act. As of Jan. 1, 2018, a member of council, other than the mayor, will be permitted to attend county meetings in the absence of the mayor.

 “I’m not sure how county feels about that,” McRobb commented.

Only one member can be appointed per four-year term to fulfil this duty, unless the appointed member ceases to be on council. In Minto the position will be filled by the deputy mayor, currently Ron Faulkner.

The legislation also sets out four new acceptable reasons for going into a closed meeting. However, the new provisions are not covered in existing freedom of information legislation as a permitted reason to refuse to disclose a record.

“A scenario that could result might be that council properly goes into a closed meeting … however the record might have to be produced on the filing of a Freedom of Information Request and a ruling by the Privacy Commissioner,” McRobb explains. “It is for this reason that staff recommends these additional exceptions be used in a very limited manner.”

The new exceptions include:

– information explicitly supplied in confidence to the municipality or local board by Canada, a province or territory or a Crown agency of any of them;

– a trade secret or scientific, technical, commercial, financial or labour relations information, supplied in confidence to the municipality or local board, which, if disclosed, could reasonably be expected to prejudice significantly the competitive position or interfere significantly with the contractual or other negotiations of a person, group of persons, or organizations;

– a trade secret or scientific, technical, commercial or financial information that belongs to the municipality or local board and has monetary value or potential monetary value; or

– a position, plan, procedure, criteria or instruction to be applied to any negotiations carried on or to be carried on by or on behalf of the municipality or local board.

The regulations will also change the definition of a meeting for council purposes. Meeting will mean any regular, special or other meeting of a council, of a local board or of a committee of either, where a quorum of members is present and members deal with any matter in a way that materially advances the business or decision-making of the council, local board or committee.

“It used to be if you all met at Tim Hortons for a coffee they could consider that a meeting. They’ve clarified that now so that’s not going to happen,” said McRobb.