O’Connor appoints integrity review crew

O’Connor, Ont. — O’Connor Township has brought in some administration heavy hitters to review challenges to council conduct — should there ever be any — in the community.

At their regular council meeting on Monday, by-laws were created to authorize former City of Thunder Bay employees Rosalie Evans (solicitor), Ron Bourret (by-law enforcement manager) and Darrell Matson (infrastructure and operations general manager) as integrity commissioners/closed meeting investigators for the township.

“By law, we have to have those positions in place,” said O’Connor Township Mayor Jim Vezina. “When the province rolled out all this legislation that we had to meet about codes of conduct and closed meetings, by law we either have our own appointed or it falls under the auspices of the Ombudsman’s office.

“When you want these positions filled and you don’t want to default to whatever the (provincial) government is offering, you want to have people that if you do need them and it goes to court, you’ve got some legs to stand on.

“(Evans, Bourret and Matson) are very good and they’re thorough and they’re respected.”

Longtime O’Connor Township councillor Bishop Racicot said he knows they have a good group representing them.

“They’ve all got a pretty good resume,” said Racicot. “They’re almost like a jury of some kind. They go over the facts. They find out why (a resident) is complaining, what the complaint is and see if everything was done above the board.”

The reason the magic number is three for the integrity commissioner/closed meeting investigator position comes down to availability.

“Why we’re doing three is simply because they may be busy somewhere else, so we’ve got a fallback,” said Vezina. “If (Matson) can’t do it, then (Evans) can. If (Evans) can’t do it, then (Bourret) can.

“They only come into play if a complaint is filed. So let’s say someone says we improperly closed the meeting. There’s a very, very specific reason a municipality can close their meeting to the public. Maybe a resident or somebody says, ‘Hey, I don’t think you guys had the right to close that meeting.’ Then there’s an investigation that occurs. In our instance, we’re planning to contract out to these three people.”

The trio of former City of Thunder Bay employees have offered their services to other municipalities/townships surrounding Thunder Bay and Vezina says those communities may have retained all three, signed up one or two or put their own people in place.

John Nagy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal