Proposed municipal councillor code of conduct shot down 0
PETAWAWA - The town will not entertain the development of a code of conduct for municipal councillors.
Earlier this year, a code for employees of the town was drafted prompting Councillor Treena Lemay to believe the political leadership should be bound by a similar set of rules.
During a special meeting of council, Coun. Lemay introduced a motion in which the mayor would appoint an ad hoc committee to draw up a code of conduct for council members with input from senior staff.
“This is a pro-active measure to address the whole issue of carrying out business in a transparent manner,” said Coun. Lemay.
A code of conduct would ensure accountability and transparency, maintain public trust in the office and ensure all members share a common basis for acceptable conduct. The code would include rules pertaining to lobbying, the accepting of gifts, use of town property, and general guidelines for councillors when they represent the town in the public and during business trips or conferences.
The proposal had some support around the council table. Councillor Theresa Sabourin noted that a code of conduct is a tool that most organizations have on the books.
“It leaves nobody to wonder and we have the trust of the residents of the municipality,“ she said.
However, Councillor James Carmody said rules of conduct are already spelled out in the Ontario Municipal Act and the attached conflict of interest guidelines. He added that if a councillor has breached any inappropriate level of conduct then the electorate can replace that individual when they go to the polls.
“The actions of council members cannot be orchestrated by central command. The composition of any given council is directed by the invisible hand. The conduct of individual members is part of that selection process,” he said. “The people who vote can be asked to pass judgement on that conduct.”
Mayor Bob Sweet also questioned what would be the process when there is a violation and what would be the consequences. Offering a staff opinion, chief administrative officer Mitch Stillman said council would ultimately answer to the ratepayers at election time. Any censure rebuking the actions of a councillor would depend on whether they violated the municipal act or the conflict of interest guidelines, he explained.
Coun. Lemay defended the concept saying it was a template that was necessary, as would be an official plan or a recreation master plan.
“I’m not suggesting this because there is a problem but it’s a pro-active thing,” she said. “It is an additional pledge to show that this is how you will, indeed, conduct business.”
The motion was defeated by a 4-3 vote.
Sean Chase is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist