In a recent article, the Current disclosed how some municipalities give guidance to residents about making complaints including those to an Integrity Commissioner (IC). Some also provide information about the role of their ICs with reference to their Codes of Conduct for members of Council. At the present time Madawaska Valley does not and this article will attempt to fill that gap.
Why we have Codes of Conduct and Integrity Commissioners
What came to be known as the “Bellamy Report”, published in 2005 (following an inquiry into the Toronto Computer Leasehold scandal), laid the groundwork for adoption of municipal Codes of Conduct and the introduction of ICs. The object was to address the perceived need to ensure that elected officials adhere to the highest ethical standards as befits their obligations to their constituents. The recommendations in the Report resulted, in 2006, in a new section added to the Municipal Act 2001 entitled “Accountability and Transparency.”
MV’s Code of Conduct
You will not find a direct link to this on its website. In fact, it is not easy to find at all. A word search may eventually lead you to the By-Law that contains it. To save you that trouble, click HERE for a link to By-Law 2014-138.
It contains standards you might expect which are summarized as requiring that Councillors
act in a way that enhances public confidence in local government.
These standards include avoiding behaviour such as dishonesty, harassment and intimidation. Also, to comply with other legislation, it confirms the need to disclose conflicts of interest as well as actual and potential pecuniary interests. Other prohibited conduct is summarized under the heading “Incompatible Activity” which includes, for example, not accepting the services of any paid supplier of services to the Township.
The Integrity Commissioner
The Township appointed its first IC, Jack Rosien, in June 2016. At the time of the termination of his appointment, which has resulted in a legal claim against the Township, he reported that he had three uncompleted investigations. His successor, Guy Giorno, was appointed in June 2017.
The IC’s function is to receive and investigate a complaint that alleges a councillor has not complied with the Code of Conduct. He is then required under the Municipal Act to carry out an “independent” investigation. This requires him to be free from any interference or influence by (or on behalf of) the parties, and Council and the Township.
The Municipal Act states that complaints to an IC can be made by members of the public as well as by Council itself or any member of Council. A complaint triggers a process of investigation by the IC who is given wide powers to interview witnesses and obtain documents. The Act also gives him the power, in appropriate circumstances, to reject a complaint immediately if he believes it to be “frivolous and vexatious.”
Integrity Commissioner’s report
At the completion of an investigation, the IC is required, if he intends to uphold the complaint, to send a copy of it to the councillor in question. That councillor is then given 14 days in which to respond. When the report is finalized, it is sent to Council which must make it public. The IC can, but is not required to, make recommendations as to penalty – which is limited under the Act to either a reprimand or up to 90 days’ suspension. He can also make a recommendation that a councillor reimburse any payment that he or she may have received inappropriately.
Although the name of the councillor will be disclosed, the complainant’s identity is kept anonymous.
In addition to investigating complaints, ICs also perform the important role of acting in an educational and advisory role to members of council; that is to say, to act as a consultant on all matters relating to the compliance with its Code as well as other ethical issues. This is beneficial to members of Council as it provides them with easy access to confidential specialist advice concerning matters of conduct that may be troubling them.
Complaints can be sent directly to the IC whose contact details are as follows:
Mr. Guy Giorno
Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP
55 Metcalfe Street
Ottawa ON K1P 6L5