THUNDER BAY – Municipal elected officials now have a governing code of conduct.
Thunder Bay city council on Monday night voted to approve a draft code of conduct, as well as the appointment of an integrity commissioner.
Changes to provincial legislation that went into effect in 2017 require all Ontario municipalities to adopt a code of conduct for members of council and the appointment of an integrity commissioner by March 1.
Thunder Bay’s draft code of conduct, which was developed by the city solicitor and city clerk, has 18 rules for members of council. Those rules include avoiding conflicts of interest, use of city resources, guidelines for accepting gifts, tokens of appreciation and hospitality and improper use of influence.
“What we’ve presented is what we feel is a best practice in terms of a draft code,” city clerk John Hannam told council.
“We will find areas of the code in terms of its language that we wish to change as we go forward, as we work with the document and to make sure that it is clear as it can be. Experience will help with that and as council gets more familiar with it.”
Council voted to appoint Brian Tario of MNP LLP as the integrity commissioner for one year, with options to renew for up to three more years at an annual cost of $15,000.
Hannam said a session with the integrity commissioner would be arranged to educate members of council on the code and how it is to be applied.
“The intent is to have the code and complaint process in the roll out of the integrity commissioner, which includes a complaint process through which the public can access that process on our website,” Hannam said.
“Both an explanation of the role of the integrity commissioner, the complaint form and the code itself will all be on the website. Any future reports in response to complaints will also be posted on the website.”
For complaints investigated by the integrity commissioner which result in the determination that the code of conduct has been violated, council can decide for it to either result in a reprimand or the member to be suspended up to 90 days of pay. Council can also choose to remove the member from a committee or as chair of a committee, or force them to repay or reimburse funds or return property or reimbursement of its value.
The development of a municipal code of conduct dates back to 2015, when one was prepared by administration but was withdrawn before being put before council when it couldn’t secure a mover or seconder.