Understanding the responsibilities of local boards
Understanding the responsibilities of local boards
The Municipal Act, 2001 states that a BIA board of management is a local board for all purposes (see Municipal Act, 2001, subsection 204(2.1) for reference) and contains a number of provisions pertaining to local boards.
There are comparable provisions in the City of Toronto Act, 2001.
In addition, municipalities may have policies, procedures or bylaws in place that apply to their local boards.
Accountability offices, rules and policies
The following lists some of the accountability offices, rules and policies that may be important for or apply to BIAs and other local boards.
Accountability and transparency
Many municipalities have a policy relating to matters of accountability and transparency that state a general commitment to be open and fair in their governance.
A municipality may appoint an independent integrity commissioner, who may have the functions assigned by the municipality with respect to:
- the application of the municipal code of conduct for members of local boards
- the application of municipal or local board procedures, rules or policies governing the ethical behaviour of local board members
A municipality may appoint an ombudsman who reports to council on the Ombudsman’s independent investigations into decisions, recommendations or actions of local boards.
A municipality may appoint an auditor general, who reports to council, and is responsible for assisting council to hold itself and its administrators accountable for the quality of stewardship over public funds and for the achievement of value for money in operations.
A municipality may assign powers and duties to an auditor general in respect of the local boards of the municipality.
Anyone may request an investigation into a closed meeting held by a local board. The investigation would concern whether a local board has complied with the open meetings legislation, or a local procedure bylaw, in respect of a closed meeting.
A municipality may appoint an independent meetings investigator to perform this function. The provincial Ombudsman is the meetings investigator for a municipality, if the municipality does not appoint one.
A municipality may have bylaws or policies relating to sound financial management by its local boards.
Access to records
Municipalities and local boards may be subject to local records bylaws and to access to information legislation, such as the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Accordingly, records of local boards may be accessible to the public.
In practice, the municipal clerk often keeps copies of local board records.
Delegation of powers and duties
Although there are several restrictions to delegation powers, a municipality may consider delegating its powers and duties to local boards.
Local boards must adopt and maintain policies with respect to:
- sale and other disposition of land
- hiring of employees
- procurement of goods and services
Some BIAs have decided to carry insurance for their liability risks, such as potential injury from streetscape items. BIAs considering getting insurance may wish to discuss insurance issues with their municipalities. Among other things, that could help determine what coverage may already be in place, since municipalities often contract for insurance for their local boards.
Remuneration and expenses
Some BIAs choose to pay remuneration to and the expenses incurred by their members, officers and employees.
Meetings and procedures
The following summarizes some of the rules about meetings of BIAs and other local boards. The rules about meetings are the same rules that are in place for municipalities (and other local bodies such as committees) generally.
Procedures and public notice of meetings
Local boards must pass a procedure bylaw for governing the calling, place and proceedings of meetings.
A procedure bylaw must provide for public notice of meetings.
All local board meetings must be open to the public, with limited exceptions.
A local board may close a meeting to the public, if one of the special circumstances provided for in the legislation applies, and if the required procedure is followed.
Exceptions for closed meetings
There are a number of instances where a meeting or part of a meeting may be closed to the public. It can happen if certain subjects are being considered, and if appropriate rules are followed.
The subject matters that could be discussed at closed meetings include, among others, security of local board property, personal matters, litigation and potential litigation.
Procedures to hold a meeting that will be closed to the public
There are procedural requirements that apply to local boards before they close a meeting or part of it.
As an example, a local board must state by resolution, before a meeting is closed, the fact that they are holding a closed meeting and the general nature of the subject matter to be discussed. Other requirements may also apply, including locally-decided procedural rules.
Record of meeting
There are requirements for local boards to record their proceedings at meetings. They apply whether or not the meeting is closed.
The legislation now provides for an investigation of local meetings. The responsible official has responsibility to decide whether a local board has complied with the open meetings legislation, or a local procedure bylaw, in connection with a closed meeting.
The official will either be a locally appointed meetings investigator, or the Ontario Ombudsman. Anyone may request this kind of investigation.