City appoints code of ethics integrity commissioner and compliance committee
The City of Swift Current has appointed a former RCMP officer as integrity commissioner to investigate any code of ethics complaints that might be made against a council member.
Councillors approved a motion at a regular council meeting on Feb. 25 to appoint Swift Current resident Harvey Lomax as integrity commissioner until the end of the current council's term in 2020.
The motion also approved the immediate appointment of Mayor Denis Perrault and councillors Pat Friesen and Ryan Plewis as members of the City's compliance committee. They will serve until the current council's term end in 2020.
The appointment of an integrity commissioner and a compliance committee are required under the City's Code of Ethics Bylaw, which was approved by council in 2017.
Lomax is a retired RCMP officer and a former coordinator of the restorative justice program in Swift Current, which is administered by the Salvation Army.
“Mr. Lomax is a well respected person in the community,” City Clerk Lee Ann Thibodeau-Hodgson said after the meeting.
Council suggested a number of potential candidates for the position and Lomax agreed to take on this duty when she approached him.
“We're hoping that we won't require him, but we should have someone in place in the event that there is a complaint,” she said.
The Code of Ethics Bylaw outlines the basic ethical standards and values for members of council. It includes a complaint procedure with specific duties for the integrity commissioner and the complaints committee.
“If a member of council or an employee of the City has a complaint against a member of council, they can go to the integrity commissioner and state their complaint,” Thibodeau-Hodgson explained. “At that point the integrity commissioner will investigate and then he/she will provide a recommendation to the compliance committee.”
The integrity commissioner can examine any pertinent evidence and interview any person with information that might be relevant to the investigation. He will then make a recommendation to the compliance committee to either dismiss the complaint, to conduct a hearing to determine if a contravention has occurred, or to make an application to the Court of Queen's Bench to disqualify the charged member from council.
The complaints committee is responsible for conducting the hearing and for referring the matter to council if there is evidence of a contravention of the Code of Ethics Bylaw. Council will then be responsible for deciding on an appropriate penalty.
“If there is a complaint against one of them on the compliance committee, that person will step aside and council will decide whether they want to hear the complaint, proceed with just those two remaining, or if they want to appoint someone else,” she said.
The Code of Ethics Bylaw only refers to the submission of a complaint against a member of council by a City employee or by a fellow councillor. There is no mention in the bylaw that a member of the public can submit such a complaint to the integrity commissioner.
“The bylaw is silent on that, but I have consulted with the City's solicitor and he has stated that if a member of the public did have an issue or a complaint, they could probably step forward as well,” she said. “There are other entities out there as well, such as the Ombudsman, that will hear complaints as well and make recommendations.”
The Code of Ethics Bylaw outlines various standards and values that members of council must adhere to. They must be honest and objective, and they must make decisions fairly and impartially. They must treat other members of council, municipal employees and the public with dignity, understanding and respect.
They have to be transparent and accountable, but at the same time they have to treat confidential information in an appropriate way. They have to act in the best interest of the municipality and they cannot use their position on council for personal benefit.
They have to disclose any actual or potential conflicts of interest, and they cannot accept a fee, gift or personal benefit greater than $500. All council members must obtain their Safe Places certification within 60 days of their oath of office and they have to maintain this certification throughout their term of office.
The full text of the Code of Ethics Bylaw is available on the City of Swift Current's website at www.swiftcurrent.ca