ORV task force found to have violated Municipal Act because of closed door meetings: Ombudsman

By Kirk Winter

The ombudsman’s office discovered that the terms of reference for the ORV task force specifically indicate that the task force “was not permitted to hold closed meetings.”

Ontario ombudsman Paul Dube has ruled that the Off-Road Vehicle Task Force of Kawartha Lakes violated the Municipal Act by holding parts of two meetings that should have been open to the public behind closed doors.

Dube’s responsibilities include ensuring that the Municipal Act of 2001 is followed by all councils, local boards and committees of council.

The ORV task force meetings that occurred on Feb. 19, 2021 and March 4, 2021 were investigated by Dube after he received a complaint from a member of the public who wondered why only part of both meetings was open to the public.

After receiving that complaint in September of 2021, the ombudsman’s office informed Kawartha Lakes in November of 2021 that they would officially investigate the matter. The ombudsman began first by reviewing relevant portions of the city’s procedure bylaw and the Municipal Act, 2001. They also looked at the task force’s terms of reference and meeting records.

The ombudsman’s office discovered that the terms of reference for the ORV task force specifically indicate that the task force “was not permitted to hold closed meetings.”

“Because the city designated the task force a committee of council and it was mandated to provide advice and recommendations to council, the task force was obligated to comply with the Municipal Act’s open meeting requirements,” Dube wrote.

“We (also) interviewed the chair (Councillor Pat Dunn), vice-chair and recording secretary of the task force,” Dube wrote.” We also interviewed the city clerk (Cathie Ritchie) and the chief administrative officer (Ron Taylor). My office received full cooperation in this matter.”

The point of contention between the task force members and the ombudsman’s office seems to hinge on the definition of a meeting. Under the Municipal Act, 2001 a meeting occurs if “a quorum of members is present and members discuss or otherwise deal with any matter that materially advances the business or decision making of council, local board or committee.”

Dube determined that both gatherings had a quorum, and decisions made at the two meetings “moved the business of council forward.”

According to Dube, with both meetings privately discussing “the feasibility of using certain municipal roads as trail linkages for off-road vehicles, and debated which ones should be recommended to council” these portions of the meetings “constituted a meeting subject to the Municipality Act, 2001 open meeting requirements”.

In his written opinion, Dube noted the following.

First, “the ORV Task Force contravened the Municipal Act, 2001 on February 19, 2021 and March 4, 2021, by holding working group meetings that did not comply with the open meeting requirement.” Because the task force did not believe these meetings were subject to the Municipal Act, 2021 “notice was not provided, the public was not able to attend and an official record in the form of meeting minutes was not kept.”

Second, the city “is taking positive steps to address issues with meeting practices of task forces. I (Dube) encourage the city to ensure that task forces operate consistently with open meeting requirements under the Municipal Act, 2001.”

“Council for the City of Kawartha Lakes was given the opportunity to review a preliminary report,” Dube writes, “and provide comments to my Office. No comments were received.”

To ensure that this kind of incident does not happen again in Kawartha Lakes, Dube made three recommendations in his April 2022 report.

The first is that “task forces of the city should be vigilant in adhering to their individual and collective obligations to ensure compliance with their responsibilities under the Municipal Act, 2001.”

The second is that “members of task forces for CKL should ensure that any discussion in which a quorum of members discusses a matter in a way that materially advances the task force’s business or decision making is recognized as a meeting subject to the open meeting rules.”

The final recommendation is that Kawartha Lakes “should provide future task forces with support and training regarding the closed meeting provisions of the Municipal Act, 2001 and their application to the work of task forces.”


  1. Ray Causton says:

    When will the excuses from this council ever end and when will we see the penalty fit the crime. Sorry does not cut it anymore coming from the entire council. Examples as we see ,even though the Ombudsman chastised the council, record of minutes not taken of secret ORV secret meeting. Councillor interfering with a Bylaw Officer in the performance of his or her duty, thus receiving minor penalty and not even apologizing for breaking the rules.
    Is this just the tip of the iceberg. Is time for a Forensic Audit and further investigations as to how the City is run.

  2. Guy Poliquin says:

    As if stacking the ORV Task Force was not suffiient to get the results the chair wanted … rules had to be broken. There is an election coming … time to hold the Task Force chair (who is running for mayor) accountable for his action … Vote for anyone but Dunn … Let’s be Dunn with him in the next election.

  3. rod melson/avalon farms/peat h says:

    hi there, my name is rod melson i own the property lot 20 con 1 Somerville that the city closed my deeded access under instruction of the snowmobile / 4 wheeler clubs. large cement blocks are blocking it. to make maters worse have the bylaw officers fine me and threaten to remove my equipment / court / leaving me unable to run my company avalon farms peat land harvesting that took 20 plus to have approval all this after the 2019 flood where we are a disaster. no help as of yet. we had a vote not to be a city and won ? i tried to contact ron ashmore / dr peter petrosoniak. no reply. i now have proof and looking for a lawyer that will go against the city. i have spent over 40k on layers along with a paralegal from my many court sessions most are the women bylaw are most aggressive , unreasonable that treat people terribly. my neighbors have a petition that has grown exponentially and just found there chair. i will give them you contact info

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