I have received a number of questions from constituents about Council’s Closed Session (often referred to as In Camera) meeting rules.
The City’s protocol conforms to all requirements under the Ontario Municipal Act. In addition to this policy, there are also rules about what can be discussed publicly outside of Closed Session. The short answer is: nothing. Other than the category of the item on the agenda and the names of members present, no other information can be released regarding the debate, motions, vote outcome, etc. unless Council passes a motion to report in Open Session.
Any member of Council who breaks Closed Session privilege is in violation of the City Council Code of Conduct.
These rules exist for a reason — to protect ourselves, our council colleagues, our staff and the Corporation of the the City of Guelph.
For this reason, it is extremely disturbing for me to read an article in Guelph Politico that Closed Session confidence has been breached. I hope that the responsible party comes forward to take responsibility, as trust is essential to a well-functioning elected council.
Before releasing a statement to Mr. Donaldson, I carefully considered my words to ensure that I was following the Council Code of Conduct. My full public statement on the matter is copied below:
Council is bound by strict Closed Meeting protocols, as well as a very clear Procedural By-law and CAO By-law about how the business of the Council and the city are to be enacted, how meetings are to be called and conducted, and the limitations of such meetings. If I believe there is risk to the corporation, council or staff, I have an obligation to raise these matters for a ruling in Closed Session. In the event that I feel this risk has not been addressed, I believe I have a personal and ethical obligation to excuse myself from the proceedings. Unfortunately, I felt the need to exercise that provision for the first time in my nine-year council tenure on January 25.