Ombudsman's office launches probe into Norfolk council

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Ontario’s watchdog is putting Norfolk County council under the microscope.

The Ontario Ombudsman’s office has told council that a complaint has been made that the March 26 council meeting did not comply with the open meeting rules covered by the Municipal Act.

The office’s open meeting team will be investigating the complaint, Norfolk councillors were told in an April 17 letter.

A spokesperson for the Ombudsman’s office declined to comment further on the complaint when contacted by Postmedia Network.

“Our office doesn’t comment on whether or not we have received specific complaints, for reasons of confidentiality,” said director of communications Linda Williamson. “In cases where the Ombudsman decides to conduct and investigation, the organization in question – in this case, the municipality – will receive written notice.”

Minutes of the March 26 meeting appear to show that councillors three times held discussions that were closed to the public.

Council began meeting at 3 p.m. and, at 3:15 p.m., on a motion by councillors Michael Columbus and Ian Rabbits, moved into a closed session.

According to the minutes, three issues were to be discussed during the closed session, including the receipt of legal advice subject to solicitor-client privilege. A second issue was a verbal update on a labour relations matter that was requested by Mayor Kristal Chopp. The third issue was a verbal update related to the chief administrative officer position. which was also requested by Chopp.

The closed session ended at 4:21 p.m. and the council reconvened in open session, the minutes state.

Council went back into closed session at 4:36 p.m. to discuss a personal matter about an identifiable individual on a motion by councillors Chris Van Paassen and Rabbits.

At 5:18 p.m. the council reconvened in open session, the minutes say.

After dealing with several issues, councillors voted to go into a closed session at 10:01 p.m. to discuss a personal matter about an identifiable individual. The motion to go in-camera was by Van Paassen and Rabbits.

The closed session ended at 11:10 p.m.

Councillors voted, in an open session, to approve the appointment of an interim CAO to be later publicly announced by Chopp.

In a statement issued on April 4, Chopp announced that former Brampton CAO Harry Schlange had been hired as the CAO on an interim basis.

Schlange replaces former CAO David Cribbs who resigned in mid-January.