The case was related to city council's decision in February to fire Marin and hire a new investigator, Amberley Gavel. The decision prompted complaints that members of council improperly met before the Feb. 12 meeting when the vote took place.
The complaint created an unusual situation in that technically, before the vote was taken, Marin was still the city's meetings investigator. But he refused to look into complaints about his own dismissal, arguing that councillors didn't co-operate with him before they fired him, let alone after they fired him.
Amberley Gavel, which handles investigations on behalf of Local Authority Services (LAS), agreed in April to look into the case. But as soon as it began its work, it received a complaint that said the firm couldn't be impartial since it stood to benefit from Marin's dismissal.
"The complainant requested that Amberley Gavel delegate its authority to another closed-door meeting investigator," the firm said in its report to city council.
The firm consulted with LAS, an arm of the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, on how it should proceed. LAS responded that the firm should continue with its preliminary investigation. If it found indications that an improper closed-door meeting was held, LAS would turn the case over to another firm.
The ombudsman was the city's private meetings investigator until Feb. 12, when, in a surprise move, councillors voted to fire him. Ward 3 Coun. Claude Berthiaume, who moved the motion, said he had discussed his plans with most city councillors before the meeting, prompting the complaint.
Only Mayor Marianne Matichuk voted against firing Marin, although Ward 8 Coun. Fabio Belli, Ward 9 Coun. Doug Craig and Ward 1 Coun. Joe Cimino reversed their vote when the decision was ratified Feb. 26.
Amberley Gavel's investigation concluded that no improper meeting had been held. It said provincial legislation allows for councillors to discuss issues informally, and said "lone wolf" politicians who don't foster support among their colleagues will have a harder time getting support for issues in their wards.
"An umbrella prohibition that no member of council can be together with another member of council at the same time in the same place unless they are in a formalized meeting under the Municipal Act would put a chilling effect on the ability to build those positive relationships," Amberley Gavel wrote in its report.
"Moreover, the provincial legislation presumes conversations between members of council on issues of common interest."
Such conversations are only prohibited when the councillor involved has a "pecuniary interest" in the matter being discussed, the report says.
Also, none of the complainants had first-hand information about any improper meetings, and instead relied on media reports about allegations of what had happened.
"None was a witness to any such meeting, nor did they see members of council gathering in any one location," the report said.
The complainants argued that the speed with which the motion passed was proof that an improper meeting had taken place.
"As one complaint alleged, 'This was too well rehearsed to have come without prior discussion,' " the report said.
However, as he told Northern Life in February, Berthiaume told investigators he only discussed his motion individually with councillors before the vote, either in person or over the phone. And he only showed the actual notice of motion to one councillor, Ward 11 Coun. Terry Kett, before the vote.
Emails show that Berthiaume began looking into replacing Marin in December 2012, after the Ombudsman's disastrous fence-mending visit to council during which he accused City Solicitor Jamie Canapini of giving councillors bad legal advice.
That meeting capped a long history of difficult relations between Marin and Sudbury councillors. The bad blood began in 2008, when he cleared them of wrongdoing in the Elton John ticket scandal, but chastised them for coming close to breaking the closed-door meeting rules.
The difficult relationship hit a new low last spring, when councillors refused to co-operate with an ombudsman investigation unless Canapini was allowed to be present. While again clearing them of meeting improperly, Marin branded them as the least co-operative council he had ever encountered, and threatened fines or jail if they refused to co-operate in the future.
In its conclusion, Amberley Gavel said while conversations and emails between most councillors and Berthiaume took place before the vote, there is no evidence that an improper meeting was held.
"Such conversations are the normal part of the process of local government," the report said.
City councillors will formally receive the results of the investigation at the meeting Tuesday.