MV increases number of Integrity Commissioners and passes new Code of Conduct

Madawaska Valley Council has taken the unusual step of passing a By-Law appointing two Integrity Commissioners to carry out on a joint basis the duties relating to Transparency and Accountability imposed by the Municipal Act. At its Council in Committee meeting on June 4, Council not only re-appointed the current Integrity Commissioner, Guy Giorno, but also added the Sudbury consulting firm Expertise for Municipalities (E4M) to be co-commissioner. Giorno is a partner in the Fasken Martineau law firm and is based in Ottawa.

The By-Law provides that E4M carry out the tasks of “advice, screening and resolution” whereas Giorno is described as “Integrity Commissioner for inquiries.” It appears from comments made by CAO Klatt at the meeting that having two commissioners will result in a cost savings. She said, “we could have E4M … at a third of the cost to do initial reviews, to accept the inquiries and to assist with training.” This is against the background of Giorno’s law firm having been paid more than $54,000 for the five investigations he has carried out since he was appointed in June 2017. She also said that E4M would carry out full investigations “…if they have a heavy caseload then you still have that option which is why Council wanted two Integrity Commissioners to be able to ensure that if one IC has a heavy workload that we can use a second IC so that we can move the applications forward.” Giorno took over a year  to complete each of his five investigations.

New Code of Conduct

At the same time, Council approved a new Code of Conduct as well as an “Integrity Commissioner Inquiry Protocol.” Its purpose is described as “to set out a framework for the Integrity Commissioner’s inquiries into allegations of contraventions of the Code of Conduct and Sections 5, 5.1 and 5.2 of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act breaches.” The Code and the Protocol form part of the By-Law 2019-57 which readers will find HERE.

Residents should note that the Protocol imposes the new limitation that a complaint MUST be made within three months of the occurrence of the conduct complained of. Significantly it does NOT say that the three-month period starts to run from the time that the complainant first becomes aware of the impugned conduct unlike, for example, the comparable provision in the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. At the time this article was prepared The Current had not succeeded in identifying any other Ontario municipality that has adopted such a stringent cut-off provision.

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