Nov. 26, 2014
By Adam Martin-Robbins
City officials recently got their knuckles rapped for holding a closed-door meeting with local hospital corporation representatives.
Amberley Gavel Ltd., the company contracted to investigate complaints about closed-door meetings, found councillors “inadvertently” violated the open meeting provisions of the Municipal Act.
The violation occurred when Mackenzie Health representatives were allowed to make a presentation during a closed-door session at a committee of the whole meeting Jan. 30 on matters related to negotiations about the land lease for the future Vaughan hospital, according to an investigator’s report completed last month.
The hospital is being built on city-owned land at the northwest corner of Jane Street and Major Mackenzie Drive.
“The fact that representatives of Mackenzie Health were permitted to make a presentation, and to answer questions about its negotiating demands, in closed session, is not in accordance with the open meetings provision of the Act,” the investigator’s report states. “We have concluded, however, that Committee of the Whole did this inadvertently and while under the mistaken but bona fide belief that the presentation session was not part of the overall negotiations respecting the long term ground lease.”
The investigator’s report went on to say “it would have been more prudent” to not allow Mackenzie Health representatives into the closed-session and instead have the city staff negotiating team conduct discussions about the lease with Mackenzie Health.
The investigator was brought in after the Vaughan Health Campus of Care (VHCC) filed a complaint about the January meeting.
The VHCC has been engaged in a public battle with the city and Mackenzie Health since council scuttled the organization’s plans to develop ancillary health-care services on the hospital lands back in 2011.
“We are increasingly concerned that Mackenzie Health and the City of Vaughan have been operating under a veil of secrecy,” VHCC chairman Michael DeGasperis said in a news release issued late Tuesday night. “Mackenzie Health has somehow convinced Vaughan council that they should conduct their affairs away from the light of public scrutiny. For some reason, they do not feel that they need to be open, accountable or transparent to the public and that is simply wrong. (This) ruling brings their actions into sharp public focus and we applaud the decision of the open meeting investigator.”
DeGasperis also noted the VHCC has requested that the provincial information and privacy commissioner step in to force Mackenzie Health to release the presentation and other documents discussed during the meeting.