City Councilors Want More Information on Recording Closed Meetings

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The city council wants more information from its legal department before deciding whether or not to record its closed-door meetings.

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Heidi de Vries, general manager of staff, legislative services and planning at Brantford, reported to advisers at an operations and administration meeting this week on audio / video recording of meetings where the public is not allowed.

City council requested that the report be prepared at a meeting in August.

In a guide for municipalities, the Ontario Ombudsman recommends audio or video recordings of all meetings – open and closed – “to ensure the most complete recording possible.” In his annual report for 2020-2021, the ombudsman said he was aware of 25 municipalities (there are 444 in Ontario) that record closed meetings.

Under the Municipalities Act, meetings can be closed for several reasons, including: discussion of personal matters concerning an identifiable person, including a city employee; collective bargaining; litigation; and the sale or purchase of land offered or in progress.

“If the board wishes to initiate the recording of closed meetings, the board should be aware that this practice poses issues of confidentiality, litigation and access to information requests, as well as ongoing costs for solutions. secure file storage, ”said de Vries.

While the tapes would be made available to the Integrity Commissioner for code of conduct investigations involving advisers, they would not be accessible to the public.

DeVries said providing the tapes to the Integrity Commissioner “could lead to increased accountability in closed meetings,” but “it may prevent a” frank and open “discussion from occurring during the meeting itself. even, which may have an impact on decision-making “.

Mayor Kevin Davis, who is a lawyer, said releasing tapes to opposing parties in lawsuits could put the city at risk.

“The court has its own set of rules,” Davis said. “We can end up in litigation or disputes where we give the other side a huge advantage because they’re going to get material that we wouldn’t get on the other side either. They will not post any recordings of their policy sessions.

The public will be invited to comment on the issue through Let’s Talk Brantford, the city’s interactive online tool.

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