The Ombudsman may be able to investigate:
* decisions to exclude the public;
* decisions on requests for official information, including requests for public-excluded minutes
Decisions to exclude the public
Under the OA, the Ombudsman may be able to investigate a complaint about the reasonableness of a decision to exclude the public. The exception to this is where the decision was taken by ‘a committee of the whole’ (ie, a full council) of any agency listed in Part 3 of Schedule 1of the OA.
Where the decision was taken by ‘a committee of the whole of one of these agencies, the Ombudsman may be able to investigate the reasonableness of any advice provided by officials or employees, on which the decision was based.
The Ombudsman would consider the agency’s explanation for the decision to exclude the public, along with documentary evidence such as the agenda, associated reports and minutes, and form an opinion on whether the decision to exclude the public was reasonably open to the agency. The Ombudsman may suggest that a complainant first raise their concerns with the agency, before starting an investigation.
Decisions on requests for official information
The Ombudsman can investigate decisions on requests for official information that the public is not otherwise automatically entitled to under the meetings provisions. This would include reports from which information has been excluded on the basis that it would be discussed in closed session, and minutes of public-excluded meetings. The Ombudsman would consider the agency’s explanation for the decision to withhold the information, along with the information itself, and form an opinion about whether the request should have been refused under the LGOIMA, or whether the decision was otherwise wrong or unreasonable.