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Playing the Price is Right with the Integrity Commissioner

 

Playing the Price is Right with the Integrity Commissioner

John Best

A rather strange scene unfolded today as the Governance Review Sub-Committee as council grilled the city’s Integrity Commissioners about a new workplan they have submitted. Usually discussions about fees are handled by staff and once the deal with a supplier is hammered out the price is submitted to council for approval. At today’s meeting the public was treated to what amounted to a haggling session over possible future bill.

Several councillors led by Clr. Brad Clark were pressing the consultants to provide precise estimates of the cost of the various items on the workplans. The consultants replied that they would be happy to provide estimates but the estimates would have caveats based on the amount of extra work council might add to the projects as the process unfolded.

Several councillors expressed discomfort with the fact that the integrity commissioner would be developing the workplan which will be determine the amount of hours they would bill to the city.

“We don’t procure anything without knowing the cost,” said Clr. Lloyd  Ferguson, apparently forgetting that the City has spent many millions on outside legal counsel on a variety of topics where costs ballooned. The city spent more than $500,000 defending against a wrongful dismissal suit by three city employees that ended up being settled for an undisclosed further sum. More recently the city underwrote a $759,000 legal bill that was the result of the Sarcoa lawsuit against the Hamilton Waterfront Trust, which again was settled without the details being released. The fact that the $759,000 is still on the HWT books with a repayment schedule would indicate that whatever the settlement was, it did not involve the city getting its legal costs covered.

•             The Integrity Commissioner recommended a workplan that would contain the following work projects:

•             Council Code of Conduct

•             Council/Staff Relations Policy

•             Protocols for review and/or investigation of complaints, and reporting on

•             complaints

•             Members’ roles and responsibilities including with respect to appointments to,

•             and sitting on, external bodies and separate entities such as municipal

•             corporations

•             Advisory Committee/Task Force Governance Issues, and Codes of Conduct

•             (Local Boards)

•             Such Other issues of integrity or governance that Council wishes to assign

In the end the committee voted to ask the Integrity Commissioner to provide an item by item price estimate of its workplan.

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