TLTI fast-tracks debate on whistleblower law
In one of its first official acts, the new council of the Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands voted to fast-track a whistleblower policy to protect staff and council members who go public with perceived wrongdoings.
Supporting a notice of motion by Deputy Mayor Jeff Lackie, council this week ordered township staff to prepare a draft policy for consideration at its Dec. 10 regular meeting.
The whistleblower policy should “facilitate the disclosure of wrongdoing or perceived wrongdoing that is contrary to the public interest, with recommendations that would ensure staff and members of council who report wrongdoing in good faith are protected from reprisal,” Lackie said in the motion.
In his motion, Lackie noted that the township espouses open and transparent governance, adding that “this commitment should include the protection of all staff and members of council employed by the municipality where there is the appearance that the protection of the public interest is not being adhered to.”
Council members agreed to suspend council’s own rules to fasttrack Lackie’s motion and allow it to be debated at the next regular council meeting.
Normally, councillors make notices of motions that they want to put on the agenda for debate at the next committee of the whole meeting of council. In this case it would mean that Lackie’s motion would have been debated at the meeting on Jan. 9.
At committees of the whole, the public is allowed to comment during the meeting, something that is prohibited at regular council meetings. (Lackie said, however, that council could suspend its rules to allow the public to speak at the Dec. 10 meeting.)
But not only did council speed up the timing of the debate, it also ordered township staff to have a draft whistleblower policy ready for the next meeting.
Greg Borduas, chief administrative officer, cautioned council that he would be hard-pressed to come up with a “fulsome” policy for the next council meeting in less than a week. He suggested that council give him more time.
But council members insisted that they get some kind of policy from Borduas in time for the next meeting.
Coun.Bri an Ma bee suggested that Borduas could present council with some examples of whistleblower laws from other municipalities.
Lackie said “this is not a new motion” and he suspected that Borduas already had a draft report on the issue. Borduas, however, said he didn’t.
Lackie was referring to the fact that his motion appears identical to one drafted by former councillor John Paul Jackson during the last term of council.
Jackson’s motion, which was presented as a notice of motion but never debated, was part of one of the most fractious issues during the previous council.
Jackson had made public a report from an in-camera council meeting that saw disciplinary action taken against four senior staff members. Two of those staffers later found other jobs and left the township.
Jackson went public because the staffers were being unjustly treated, he said.
However, the majority of council, with the exception of Lackie and the late councillor Harold Emmons, voted to suspend Jackson’s pay for three months for violating council’s confidentiality policy. [email protected]media.com