Potential leak of closed-meeting details has some Kingston councillors concerned

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Information from a closed council meeting was potentially leaked – Aug 27, 2018

After a party to an appeal of a local development questioned the city about details supposedly discussed in a closed council meeting, the city is trying to figure out how private information may have been leaked.

There are hints that a deal was reached between the city and Homestead Land Holdings on a building proposal meant to be built on Queen Street. That development is currently before the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal, the body that recently replaced the Ontario Municipal Board.

READ MORE: Kingston councillors pass motion to review transparency issues for closed meetings

At an Aug. 7 council meeting, municipal politicians voted to direct staff to follow recommendations in a report that has yet to be made public.

Not long after that council meeting, Shirley Bailey, president of the Frontenac Heritage Foundation, a party in the appeal of the development, asked for a copy of the report.

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In an email sent to the city clerk on Aug. 13, Bailey says that Frontenac Heritage Foundation should have been made privy to the privately discussed report.

“As a party to the appeal, our board is entitled to know the terms of the settlement between the city and the developer,” Bailey’s email read.

The email also suggests Bailey has information about the type of report the city will eventually release to the public.

“I have been told that an information report will be forthcoming to council, but I fail to understand why this is not a detailed staff report to planning committee analyzing the complex issues that should be considered on this matter.”

Bailey’s implication that a settlement may have been reached has made some wonder how she received the information, including the city clerk, John Bologne.

“With respect to the information report, referenced in your communication, could you please advise me as to the source in this regard?” Bologne answered Bailey in an email.

Bailey says she hasn’t discussed the information of the report with any councillors, but still holds that the contents of the report should be made public.

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“The cards should be on the table,” Bailey said.

For the president of Frontenac Heritage Foundation, council’s alleged secrecy is frustrating. Since Homestead appealed their own development project, the company could potentially pull their appeal at any time. If movement was made on the project behind closed doors, it could leave the other parties involved in the appeal in the dark.

Mayor Bryan Paterson won’t confirm if a resolution with Homestead has been reached, but he did say that council discussed the subject.

“Homestead has appealed to the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal regarding their development that they had brought forward for the North Block. At our last council meeting, we did discuss that matter behind closed doors,” said Paterson.

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On Aug. 23, city council held a closed meeting, of which the agenda referenced educating members on the code of conduct, which covers when to reveal information from a closed session. It is unclear whether this closed education session was related to the potential leak of information.

The mayor says that the potential leak was concerning, but council hasn’t made any decisions on whether the integrity commissioner will be called in to investigate.

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“Obviously, it is something that has been discussed, certainly by certain members of council that were concerned, as was I, about this potential leak. But obviously, it’s too early to say what the next steps will be.”

Homestead Land Holdings refused to comment for this story since information has yet to be made public.

— With files from Alexandra Mazur

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