Ombudsman in final stage of City Hall inquiry
Ombudsman Arlene Brock said today she was giving members of the Corporation of Hamilton longer than usual to respond to “adverse comments” made about them during her ongoing investigation into City Hall governance.
Ms Brock said in a statement that her inquiry had reached the “due process” stage, when parties had the right to share their concerns and comments about criticism of them gathered during the fact-finding stage.
She said Ombudsman best practice would usually require the due process stage to take a couple of days for “sensitive investigations” but that in this case she had decided to extend the time until November 21.
“In the case of the Corporation of Hamilton, there are at least nine members of the City council itself and other persons either about whom there are adverse comments or who are otherwise named,” said Ms Brock. “Given the complexity of this investigation, there are several issues that people may want to comment on.”
She said those responding to adverse comments could be represented by anyone of their choosing, including a lawyer, and should “clearly articulate their responses in writing”. They also have the right to a hearing in person with her.
Ms Brock added: “The great value to me of the due process stage is that the feedback helps me correct any factual errors in the preliminary draft report and, more importantly, to reflect and redraft if I have misinterpreted or unfairly characterised any issues.
“The responses, concerns and any other representations that persons give back to me may lead to substantive changes to the preliminary draft report. For this reason, it is important that the contents remain confidential until I complete and table the final report in Parliament.
“I usually circulate comments being made in draft reports to people if the comments may identify them — even if the comments are not at all adverse. This is a courtesy for them to be aware of what may be in the report. In the past, people have respected the process and have honoured the need for confidentiality.”
The Ombudsman launched her inquiry into City Hall, particularly its handling of the Hamilton waterfront development process, on March 20.
Last month, Mayor Graeme Outerbridge and his Deputy Donal Smith were found guilty of contempt of court for failing to respond to a Supreme Court summons issued by her as part of her investigation.
Ms Brock said today that her action was “due to their failure to comply with her summons to attend investigation interviews”.
She said the Mayor and Deputy Mayor claimed they had a right to have their lawyers present during the Ombudsman's investigation interviews but the Supreme Court found there was no right of legal representation during the Ombudsman's fact-finding stage of investigations.
Ms Brock said: “People are, of course, free to consult with attorneys before and after interviews — but not inside the interview room. I will exercise my discretion to allow lawyers only for compelling reasons.”