Amherst to main­tain sta­tus quo on code of con­duct

Wait­ing for prov­ince to in­sti­tute code for mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ments

The Amherst News - - EXTRAS ONLINE - BY DARRELL COLE darrell.cole@amher­st­ Twit­ter: @ADN­dar­rell

Darrell Jones wants Amherst coun­cil to strengthen its code of con­duct to re­gain the pub­lic’s trust and con­cep­tion that it’s drag­ging its feet on the mat­ter.

The coun­cilor brought for­ward a mo­tion at coun­cil’s March com­mit­tee-of-the-whole meet­ing that would change town pol­icy by ex­pect­ing mem­bers of coun­cil to up­hold the let­ter and spirit of the code of con­duct and dis­charge their du­ties in a man­ner that will sup­port pub­lic con­fi­dence in the abil­i­ties and in­tegrity of coun­cil.

At the same time, it would re­quire coun­cil­lors to re­frain from en­gag­ing in pro­fes­sional or per­sonal con­duct that could dis­credit or com­pro­mise the in­tegrity of coun­cil.

“The pub­lic doesn’t see and feel that coun­cil mem­bers are up to self-reg­u­lat­ing the im­por­tance of prin­ci­ples con­tained in the code of con­duct,” Jones told coun­cil.

CAO Greg Her­rett said coun­cil has wait­ing for the prov­ince to move on a code of con­duct for mu­nic­i­pal gov­ern­ments for sev­eral years.

He said the Union of Nova Sco­tia Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties has sent some pro­pos­als to the prov­ince and there’s a work­shop sched­uled next month in Truro.

He sug­gested the town wait un­til that ses­sion be­fore try­ing to change its code of con­duct. he said provin­cial leg­is­la­tion would have prece­dence any town pol­icy on the mat­ter.

“If the prov­ince brings in leg­is­la­tion or changes the Mu­nic­i­pal Govern­ment Act or the Mu­nic­i­pal Elec­tions Act it will have prece­dence. I ex­pect there will be changes to the act that will say coun­cils will be re­quired to have codes of con­duct and they must cover these ar­eas and coun­cil has this author­ity to do this to mem­bers who are in vari­ance of that code of con­duct,” Her­rett said. “It’s still on­go­ing.”

Coun­cil does not have the power to re­move or sus­pend a coun­cilor for break­ing a code of con­duct.

What it can do is re­strict mem­ber­ship on com­mit­tees or re­strict travel by a coun­cilor who breaks the code.

He sug­gested that in­stead of mak­ing changes now coun­cil should con­tinue to wait for the prov­ince.

Coun. Vince Byrne, who was re­cently rep­ri­manded by the Nova Sco­tia Se­cu­ri­ties Com­mis­sion for trad­ing mu­tual funds af­ter his li­censed ex­pired, dis­agreed with Jones that the pub­lic has lost trust in coun­cil.

Byrne was never charged un­der the crim­i­nal code or the Se­cu­ri­ties Act and co­op­er­ated with the se­cu­ri­ties com­mis­sion and ac­cepted the rep­ri­mand and the penalty that came with it.

“I have dif­fi­culty with the com­ment that we have all seen and heard how the pub­lic is los­ing trust. I haven’t seen that or heard that,” he said. “If you read the opin­ion pieces on so­cial me­dia that’s what they are, opin­ion. I haven’t seen any com­ment or dis­cus­sion that says we can’t sel­f­reg­u­late. Those com­ments pay every­one with a very large brush.”

Byrne said peo­ple like ac­coun­tants, doc­tors and lawyers are mem­bers of pro­fes­sional or­ga­ni­za­tions and are re­spon­si­ble to fol­low their codes of ethics and con­duct.

If some­one makes an ac­cu­sa­tion, that group is bound to in­ves­ti­gate.

“It doesn’t make any sense by beef­ing it up with those words. It still doesn’t have any teeth and I’m not ex­actly sure what we’re try­ing to ac­com­plish,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense to amend some­thing that doesn’t need to be amended or will be de­funct in a month or so.”

Jones said his mo­tion wasn’t meant to be per­sonal but to show some trans­parency by coun­cil. He said the code cov­ers coun­cil­lors while on coun­cil busi­ness, but its mem­bers are re­garded as coun­cil­lors in the com­mu­nity away from coun­cil busi­ness.

He would ex­pect coun­cil­lors to act within the spirit of the code at all times.

“Mem­bers of this coun­cil need to think be­fore they say some­thing out­side of coun­cil be­cause in the pub­lic eye you’re still a coun­cilor whether you’re in coun­cil or at the Amherst Sta­dium,” Jones said. “Peo­ple in this town rec­og­nize you as a coun­cilor, as a leader and we’re ex­pected to act as such.”

Jones said the town has been talk­ing about the code of con­duct for a cou­ple of years and noth­ing has been done be­cause it’s wait­ing for the prov­ince. He sug­gested it needs to act now.

The mo­tion, how­ever, did not pass with only Jones sup­port­ing it.

The code of con­duct was first called into ques­tion in 2016 when for­mer coun­cilor Ge­orge Baker was ac­cused of us­ing a racial slur at a down­town pizze­ria. At the time, then mayor Robert Small said coun­cil had no author­ity to dis­ci­pline the coun­cilor.

Coun. Darrell Jones

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