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Closed meeting about recreation facility to stay under wraps - for now

Staff asked to report on meetings, current costs, budget and contingencies of recreation facility
2018-01-19 City Hall.jpg

It was déjà vu all over again at Monday night’s council meeting.

After more than 30 minutes of machinations and proposed amendments and various votes, council opted, essentially, to stay the course when it comes to keeping details about a closed-door meeting held Feb. 5 under wraps.

Coun. Mason Ainsworth, who filed a formal complaint with the city’s integrity commissioner Monday afternoon about the disputed Feb. 5 meeting, again tried to convince his council colleagues to postpone accepting a report about the meeting of the recreational facility project team.

Ainsworth has said the almost-two-hour meeting was an update on the recreation facility that is under construction at 255 West St. On the city’s public agenda, the meeting was deemed a ‘legal’ matter and noted Robert Allen, a partner of MacLennan Jaunkalns Miller Architects, would be in attendance.

At the start of that meeting, Ainsworth tried to get the meeting deemed a public meeting but could only muster support from Coun. Rob Kloostra and Coun. Sarah Valiquette-Thompson, so the meeting was held in private.

Earlier Monday, after officially filing his complaint, he said the recreation facility is “the biggest project in the history of Orillia and people should be able to know what’s going on.”

With that in mind, he tried again Monday night to postpone accepting the report and asked council, instead, to wait until the investigation of the Feb. 5 meeting was completed.

Coun. Ted Emond vehemently opposed the idea, saying he was “quite comfortable” that what was discussed should have been discussed behind closed doors. He said if council agreed to a postponement, “it may indicate … that we all concur that there was something going on last week that there shouldn’t have been and I’m totally opposed to that.”

City CAO Gayle Jackson noted that if the integrity commissioner deemed that information from the closed meeting should be made public, he has the authority to do so – no matter what council decided Monday night. That made the motion to postpone “irrelevant”.

However, Ainsworth was successful in adding some further details to a report being requested of staff about the recreation facility.

In a decision that passed unanimously, staff was directed to prepare a report with respect to the construction schedule for the recreation facility for its Feb. 26 council committee meeting. The report is to include an overview of the meetings held by the recreation project team in addition to an overview of the “current costs associated to the project including budget and details of the contingencies portion of the project and that staff provide a monthly progress report on the recreation facility.”

As a result of concerns and questions about what should be discussed in private and what should be debated in the open, the city has invited its integrity commissioner, Nigel Bellchamber, to speak to council about these matters March. 5.

It will be up to Bellchamber to weigh Ainsworth’s formal complaint and determine if an investigation is warranted.


Dave Dawson

About the Author: Dave Dawson

Dave Dawson is community editor of
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