O’Hara to ask for probe into council and staff actions Monday

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At least two Petrolia councillors believe the report which led to the resignation of the town’s chief administrator should be made public. And they want the probe to go deeper.
Both Grant Purdy and Ross O’Hara believe the document, which Mayor John McCharles told the media would not be released because of personnel issues, should be made public.
“The biggest concern I have been getting from members of the public is that this report…from John Fleming needs to be made public because there has been so much mistrust of not only town hall but council as a whole; that in the interest of transparency and getting public respect and trust back, it would be the key thing right now.”
O’Hara agrees the report should be released, saying some items might need to be removed for the personal privacy of the former CAO.
The Independent of Petrolia and Central Lambton has also asked for the report to be released. The newspaper has filed a request under the Municipal Freedom of Information Act for Fleming’s report.
In a statement, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner says generally, labour relations and employment matters do not fall under the Freedom of Information Act. “There may be legitimate reasons, such as public transparency and accountability, why an institution would choose to exercise its discretion in favour of disclosure.”
Andrew Sancton, a retired political scientist who specializes in municipal government agrees.
“This is the CAO and the council and it (the Fleming report) is determining what is going on at the highest levels and if the institution is working ….and that’s what the public is entitled to know.”
Sancton added the town’s “default position should be releasing it because it is a matter of public interest…The part that has caused public concern does be released.”
But O’Hara says releasing Fleming’s report is “a small item right now.”
O’Hara pledges to ask for a full investigation of politicians and staff at the Nov. 27 council meeting. “How do we ever get the confidence of the voters back – the taxpayers back –  without doing it?”
“That is the only way we can restore confidence to the taxpayers of Petrolia.”
Purdy also wants  concerns of three local developers who alleged there are different rules for developers linked to the mayor to be addressed and plans to bring that up at council.

The Independent of Petrolia and Central Lambton has also asked for the report to be released. The newspaper has filed a request under the Municipal Freedom of Information Act for Fleming’s report.
As a general rule, Ontario’s access and privacy laws do not apply to labour relations and employment related matters. This means that government institutions are not prevented by the privacy restrictions in these laws from disclosing this category of records. There may be legitimate reasons, such as public transparency and accountability, why an institution would choose to exercise its discretion in favour of disclosure.

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