Mapleton council should be commended for its Nov. 14 decision not to appoint a closed meeting investigator, effectively leaving the job, if it’s ever required, to the provincial Ombudsman’s office.
The move strikes a legitimate blow for transparency, as it means any future investigations of this nature will be conducted by officials entirely unconnected to the township.
We have long been critical from this corner of municipalities appointing their own investigators for this purpose. Even though the province gives them the option to do so, it’s just bad optics. If your investigator is on your payroll, there’s clearly a question of impartiality.
The Municipal Act requires municipalities to appoint an investigator to look into any allegations about improper closed meetings, or to accept the services of the Ombudsman. In this case, the other option before council was to re-up for the services of John Maddox, a former municipal CAO and regional director with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Maddox, operating as JGM Consulting Inc., has been the investigator for the township since 2014 through an agreement between the County of Wellington, JGM and six of the county’s seven member municipalities. While the county was proposing to continue covering the municipalities’ $300 shares of Maddox’ retainer, an hourly fee of $100, plus expenses would be paid by any municipality in which an investigation is conducted.
Pointing out the Ombudsman’s office does not charge municipalities for investigations, councillor Michael Martin encouraged council members to make the switch, citing also the need for transparency. Martin made the same arguments in 2014, when the original deal was struck between county municipalities and Maddox, but couldn’t muster the support from other Mapleton councillors. This time, he was joined by councillors Lori Woodham and Marlene Ottens in defeating the resolution to appoint an investigator.
So kudos to Mapleton for a sound decision.
As for other area municipalities? Along with the county, Wellington North, Centre Wellington and Puslinch have signed on with Maddox. Erin and Minto have yet to deal with the 2018 appointment as of this writing. Guelph-Eramosa contracts its investigative services through Local Authority Services, which works through the Association of Municipalities of Ontario.
They would all be well advised to follow Mapleton’s example in the future. It’s the “transparent” thing to do.