The Independent Staff
The Independent of Petrolia and Central Lambton has asked a Closed Door Meeting Investigator examine the Town of Petrolia’s handling of its recent negotiations with the YMCA to run the Oil Heritage District Community Centre.
The newspaper filed the request Nov.13 saying council had improperly met privately to discuss the issue. It has signed a memorandum of understanding with the YMCA.
Discussions with the Y were first made public Oct. 25, one day before public consultation started. Richard Poore, director of cultural services told The Independent negotiations had been going on “for months” and a memorandum of agreement had been signed. The issue had not come before council publicly until Oct. 25.
The Independent consulted with a number of municipal leaders, a lawyer and municipal administrators who said while some of the discussions around the future of the employees may have been done behind closed doors, the rest of the information, including the memorandum of understanding, should have been discussed in open council.
“I recognize this is an unusual step, however we believe strongly in open government and felt compelled to bring the situation to light,” says Publisher Heather Wright.
“While there may be merit in the idea of having the YMCA run the community centre, keeping negotiations secret for so long creates suspicions about what may have already been decided.”
Under the Municipal Act, there are very clear rules of what councils may discuss privately.
They include property, legal and personal issues where an employee is identified. Decisions are not to be made in camera.
The complaint has also been filed with the Ontario Ombudsman who is listed as the town’s closed door meeting investigator.