Investigators from the Office of the Ontario Ombudsman were in London Wednesday to start their probe into the actions of six city councillors and the mayor.
Ombudsman Andre Marin tweeted that both of his investigative teams, the Special Ombudsman Response Team and the Open Meeting Law Enforcement Team would be in London on Wednesday.
The Ombudsman is investigating after a record 60 complaints were filed about a gathering of six councillors and the mayor on Feb. 23 at Billy T's Tap and Grill.
If city business was discussed and advanced, the gathering would violate the Municipal Act.
London Mayor Joe Fontana says his meeting with investigators was “Very cordial, and it went well from my standpoint, and he’s doing his job.”
But as interviews were conducted with councillors and the mayor, a push has also begun to fire the Ombudsman as London’s closed meeting investigator.
Councillor Stephen Orser says he will ask city staff to examine alternatives to the Ombudsman after a similar move in Sudbury last month.
“I’ve been considering it awhile, but after seeing what happened in Sudbury I think it’s time…I don’t think there is anybody in this town that we are going to hire that is going to jeopardize their law licence by being buddy, buddy with councillors.”
Some councillors are unhappy with the Ombudsman’s report on a meeting at the Harmony Grand Buffet Restaurant and his Tweets.
But the mayor supports retaining Marin, in part because of the costs, “It’s available to a lot of municipalities and a lot of municipalities take advantage of it, and it’s free.”
Still, Orser says “These are high-priced individuals being brought down by Toronto and believe me when he submits his bill to the province, we are paying.”
Neither the Ombudsman nor his staff will comment during an active investigation, but Marin has previously stated he doesn’t support city councils looking for a friendlier watchdog.
Once interviews are completed, all the information will be gathered and a draft report submitted to city council for review.