Public Ombudsman report reveal an obvious next step: Mayor Hunt

KAGAWONG—The mayor of Billings Township has confirmed that once the township council receives a report on an investigation carried out by the Ontario Ombudsman’s office regarding a summer in-camera meeting it will be raised in an open council meeting for the public to hear.

“Ms. (Michelle) Bird has the report ready, but it hasn’t been sent to the township council yet,” stated Austin Hunt, in an interview with the Recorder on Monday. “Once we receive the report we will bring it forward and read the results of the investigation in an open council meeting. That’s what you do in these type of circumstances.”

The Recorder received an open letter from the ‘Citizens for Accountability’ on September 20, 2014 stating, “as reported in the Manitoulin Recorder in July, the Ontario Ombudsman’s Office launched an investigation into violations of The Municipal Act and The Open Meetings Law by Billings Township Council.”

“Ms. Michelle Bird, the legal advisor, Open Meeting Law Enforcement Team, recently confirmed that the investigation has been completed and a report prepared, which is just awaiting the final signature of the Ombudsman,” the letter explains.

“Ms. Bird also indicated that a letter and the report would soon be provided to the clerk and council who will then be responsible for making it public,” the letter continued. “Once received it is imperative that this report not be buried until some future meeting after the election. The declared candidates and all Billings taxpayers deserve to know the results of the investigation immediately. Therefore, we demand that the clerk and council commit that upon receipt of the letter and report, to immediately make it public, preferably the same day, by providing it to the local media and posting it on the township website.”

Mr. Hunt said, “Ms. Bird has talked to us two or three times and has indicated what the report says. She has suggested that we bring it to council and read it in an open council meeting, as is customary for this type of thing, which we will do. We have no intention of hiding the report. You don’t hide something like this, there is no advantage to it, and you bring it out in the open, good or bad.”