County council closes book on library co-op decision

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CAO says ‘lessons learned’, council offers no comment on report finding county broke municipal law with closed discussion and vote

One of the outgoing Simcoe County council’s most controversial decisions regarding their tenure came back on the table on Tuesday, but ended with a whimper instead of a jab.

Two separate staff reports were considered at the last Committee of the Whole of Simcoe County Council and the last Mandate Council meeting on November 8: one containing the findings of an Integrity Commissioner’s investigation into a data breach of confidential report on proposed Simcoe County Library Cooperative Board disbandment from April; the other, a report by the county’s closed meetings investigator who concluded that the vote to dissolve the co-op was improperly conducted behind closed doors by councilors as part of the regional task force on the governance review.

“I don’t think (the results) change the results at all, but there are lessons learned all the time,” County Administrative Manager Mark Aitken said in an interview Tuesday. “It would have been better if we separated some of those things that didn’t need to go behind closed doors.”

“The county does very little behind closed doors compared to many local municipalities,” he said, noting that changes are already being made to county procedures to improve the transparency of votes and discussions behind closed doors.

At a council meeting in April, Simcoe County councilors said there was should be “consequences” after a confidential report regarding the possibility of disbanding the co-op was posted on the county’s public website for a brief period before a council vote on the matter and was allegedly uploaded and circulated by county public library CEOs Simcoe. The issue was resolved within three hours of reporting it, but was consulted by senior library officials in the area.

The library co-op report was presented to council in closed session and included a recommendation to disband the 74-year-old Simcoe County Library Co-op, which served 14 Simcoe County public libraries as a service cost-shared for special and bulk collections. -purchase.

The county council eventually voted to dissolve the co-op while replacing it with the Information Library Service (ILS). The ILS would replace many IT functions previously performed by the cooperative, including the cloud-based electronic services IT platform, cybersecurity threat protection and IT help desk.

“The context is much larger than that. The county conducted a review of the effectiveness of the overall structure. What we are putting in place instead is a much improved service,” Aitken said.

All county libraries had the option of accepting or rejecting the new ILS system. Currently, the only municipality that has not joined the new system is Bradford West Gwillimbury, which has expressed their opposition to moving.

After the vote to dissolve the co-op at their April meeting, the county council called for an investigation into the breach.

The Integrity Commissioner’s report on the breach investigated on Tuesday was prepared by Principles Integrity, but has not been made public. County Clerk John Daly drafted a summarized version of the report to be provided to the public on Tuesday, which was confirmed by Integrity Commissioner Jeffrey Abrams to be an accurate summary of his report’s findings.

According to the public report, the Integrity Commissioner was able to identify people who viewed and shared the confidential April 19 library co-op report ahead of a board vote, although their names were not included in the summary. by Dally. Abrams’ report notes that the April 19 confidential report was confirmed to be shared beyond Simcoe County with CUPE 5820.01 which represents the county’s chief librarians and other employees, the Library Service of Ontario, the Federation of Ontario Public Libraries and the Ministry of Heritage, Sport and Tourism. and cultural industries.

Abrams also identified that the Public Libraries Act does not provide for ethical oversight of library functions, but he called the distribution of the April 19 report “inappropriate.”

“Any attempt to rationalize unethical behavior simply because information was briefly and inadvertently made publicly visible does not justify it,” he noted.

On Tuesday, councilors voted to send Principles Integrity’s confidential information breach report to Simcoe County lower-level city managers and all library board chairs to use the information as they see fit. hear.

The second report considered by councilors on Tuesday regarding the decision to disband the co-operative library was a closed-door investigation by Aird & Berlis which found the county’s regional government review task force breached the law on municipalities and procedural bylaws to discuss the entire matter in camera and the improper holding of a closed vote.

The complainant who initiated the investigation is not identified in the report.

While investigator Paula Boutis clarified that the closed portion should have been limited to labor relations and bargaining concerns, while the rest of the discussion should have been in a complementary open report.

“The task force held, at least in part, an improper vote in camera because the motion voted on contained several items that did not address a procedural matter or constitute guidelines or instructions to officers, employees or county agents,” Boutis noted in his report.

Going forward, the Boutis report recommends that a checklist be developed in the county to ensure that resolutions to call a closed session always include a reference to the general nature of the matter to be discussed while examining whether parts can be separated from closed questions by a companion. open report.

The topics of discussion that qualify for a closed session are listed in the Municipalities Act, as is the requirement to publicly state the reason for the closed session.

“Perfection is not required, however, on the facts of this case, it seems that important parts could easily have been dealt with through a report and discussion in open session,” Boutis noted.

At Tuesday’s meeting, councilors voted in favor of the governance committee’s review of their procedure bylaw; there was no discussion.

Task Force Chair and Wasaga Beach Mayor Nina Bifolchi was not present at Tuesday’s meeting, but sent a comment to CollingwoodToday by e-mail regarding the two reports.

“The end result of the library modernization decision will provide value to all county ratepayers and local library branches,” Bifolchi said. “The breach of confidential information by some individuals was concerning.”

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