CITY MULLS NEW CODE

Ap­proach to gifts, bul­ly­ing part of sug­ges­tions

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - FRONT PAGE - PHIL TANK [email protected]­media.com

A few weeks af­ter bud­get talks dur­ing which some city coun­cil­lors ques­tioned oth­ers’ be­hav­iour, Saska­toon city coun­cil will con­sider a re­vised code of con­duct.

The code of con­duct ap­pears by co­in­ci­dence on the agenda for Mon­day’s meet­ing of city coun­cil’s gov­er­nance and pri­or­i­ties com­mit­tee. How­ever, sev­eral coun­cil­lors took of­fence to com­ments they felt ques­tioned their in­tegrity dur­ing the sec­ond day of bud­get de­lib­er­a­tions last month.

Here are five high­lights of the code of con­duct.

1 NO BUL­LY­ING

The code in­cludes sec­tions that com­pel coun­cil­lors and the mayor to be hon­est, trans­par­ent, re­spect­ful, ob­jec­tive and to show lead­er­ship. It man­dates cour­tesy to­ward res­i­dents, city staff and other coun­cil mem­bers, say­ing they must all be treated with “dig­nity, un­der­stand­ing and re­spect.”

Bul­ly­ing, dis­crim­i­na­tion and ha­rass­ment are pro­hib­ited. At coun­cil meet­ings, mem­bers are ex­pected to make fair de­ci­sions and show “re­spect for dif­fer­ences, and an in­ten­tion to work to­gether.” Coun­cil­lors and the mayor are ex­pected to be hon­est in their com­mu­ni­ca­tion, which ex­tends to the use of so­cial me­dia.

2 GIV­ING GIFTS

The re­vised code in­tends to in­tro­duce tighter rules re­gard­ing gifts coun­cil­lors and the mayor can re­ceive and what they must de­clare. Gen­er­ally, coun­cil mem­bers are not al­lowed to ac­cept gifts, but there are some ex­cep­tions, such as me­men­toes of events.

The 2012 code of con­duct set the bar for ac­cep­tance of a gift at $750, which is ab­nor­mally high, ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey of other Cana­dian mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties. Coun­cil must de­cide whether to lower to $100 the thresh­old for dis­clo­sure of a gift — which could in­clude pens, event tick­ets and food and bev­er­ages — or to re­move the thresh­old and re­quire all gifts be dis­closed.

3 THE COM­MISH

How will these new rules be en­forced? The new code rec­om­mends an in­tegrity com­mis­sioner be ap­pointed to in­ves­ti­gate com­plaints. Any­one who be­lieves the code has been vi­o­lated by a coun­cil­lor or the mayor can re­quest an in­ves­ti­ga­tion. The com­mis­sioner would be ap­pointed by coun­cil.

The city solic­i­tor and the city clerk, two of the three po­si­tions at city hall that are filled di­rectly by coun­cil, screen com­plaints to de­cide if they are wor­thy of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion. The in­tegrity com­mis­sioner would likely be a part-time po­si­tion.

4 THE PUN­ISH­MENT

If a coun­cil­lor or the mayor is found to be in vi­o­la­tion of the code of con­duct fol­low­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the in­tegrity com­mis­sioner can im­pose sanc­tions. These in­clude a let­ter of rep­ri­mand, a let­ter of apol­ogy from the mem­ber, manda­tory train­ing or re­moval from a coun­cil com­mit­tee.

The word­ing sug­gests a wider scope, in­clud­ing “any other cen­sure, sanc­tions or cor­rec­tive ac­tions al­lowed by law.”

5 CRACK­ING THE CODE

Coun­cil mem­bers have sug­gested a few changes to the 35-page code of con­duct.

Coun. Randy Donauer ques­tioned the in­clu­sion of a clause that would have meant me­dia inquiries on a cer­tain sub­ject could only be an­swered by coun­cil’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive for that ini­tia­tive. Coun­cil seems likely to re­move that clause.

Coun. Darren Hill also re­quested changes to the word­ing of a clause deal­ing with the han­dling of money by char­i­ta­ble or­ga­ni­za­tions. Hill said that could make his em­ploy­ment as pres­i­dent and CEO of Junior Achieve­ment Saskatchewan a vi­o­la­tion of the code.

KaYLE NEIS

Coun­cil­lors Hi­lary Gough and Randy Donauer have an ex­change dur­ing Novem­ber’s bud­get de­lib­er­a­tions. The city is con­sid­er­ing a re­vised code of con­duct.

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