Perth County revises Code of Conduct

PERTH COUNTY – At the Nov. 3 Perth County council meeting, revisions were made to the council’s Code of Conduct and Complaint Protocol.

During the Oct. 20 council meeting, staff presented a revised Code of Conduct for members of council and introduced a Complaint Protocol, to which three concerns were raised on behalf of the council. Firstly, council wanted confirmed that it has authority to depart from the Integrity Commissioner’s (IC) recommendation for penalties, as well as remedial and corrective actions.

Next, council requested that the Complaint Protocol classify the complaint within a defined time frame of 10 days, as opposed to “within a timely manner.” Finally, council discussed having the Integrity Commissioner seek approval from council when anticipated that an investigation may take over 90 days.

“Council discussed wanting to clearly enunciate its authority to depart from the IC’s recommendations related to penalties and remedial measures. Council also discussed the timelines contained in the Complaint Protocol,” stated the report.

Changes were then made to the Code and Protocol, and presented to council again on Nov. 3, with staff recommending that the current bylaw be repealed and that a new Code of Conduct be adopted, with the proposed changes.

In regards to their first concern, the issue on whether council has authority to depart from the IC’s recommendation for penalties and corrective actions, Annette Diamond, director of legal/corporate services for Perth County, addressed the concern.

“Council ultimately decides on whether to impose a penalty and what penalty should be imposed,” stated Diamond at the Nov. 3 meeting.

“Caselaw confirms that council is the ultimate authority on penalties and remedial measures (and) the IC investigates and determines whether there is a contravention of the code of conduct and the council decides on the penalty (or corrective or remedial measures) to impose,” stated the report brought to council.

“Section 18.1 of the proposed Code includes the following wording: ‘Council may, on the basis of a recommendation from the Integrity Commissioner, also take any or all of the following corrective or remedial actions…’ This provision was carefully worded to protect council from an accusation of slavishly or improperly imposing remedial or corrective measures,” explains the report.

Further, council had issue with the Complaint Protocol at the Oct. 20 meeting, and wanted “within a timely manner” defined in regards to the Integrity Commissioner classifying a complaint. This sparked the proposed change of 10 calendar days, as long as the complaint is deemed complete, as many are often deficient and require clarification.

The final issue that was addressed was the Integrity Commissioner’s authority to extend or abridge the timeline, and whether the commissioner should seek council’s approval to do so. The IC strongly objected to this proposed issue raised at the Oct. 20 meeting.

The motion to receive the revision to the Code of Conduct and Complaint Protocol, repeal the previous bylaw and adopt the new bylaw, was passed at the Nov. 3 council meeting.

Melissa Dunphy, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Listowel Banner