City staff are recommending that Council approve the workplan of the city’s Integrity Commissioner at a cost of about $7,000. Principles Integrity is proposing to update the City Code of Conduct for Councillors, provide some guidance on Councillor’s roles on external bodies, such as the Police Services Board, or a Conservation Authority; and to draft guidelines for how citizen advisory boards operate. Any investigation resulting from complaints to the integrity commissioner would be billed separately.
Council concerned about open-ended costs
The workplan had first been presented to council last month but 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.
Integrity Commissioners are mandatory
Bill 68, the Modernizing Ontario’s Municipal Legislation Act, 2017, expanded the responsibilities of the Integrity Commissioners and required that all municipal governments provide access to an Integrity Commissioner and either appoint its own Integrity Commissioner or make provisions that the services of an Integrity Commissioner be provided by another municipality by March 1, 2019 .Municipalities across the province have now adopted ethical frameworks, including codes of conduct, as a result of Municipal Act mandatory provisions that came into force in 2019.
In its submission to council, Principles Integrity noted , “many of those municipalities had codes of conduct in place prior to them becoming mandatory. It is no longer necessary to craft codes of conduct (and related polices) from scratch. The review will take advantage of traditional and emerging code themes so that Council can focus on the provisions most important to the Hamilton context.”
The report continued, “public confidence in the ethical behaviour of their elected officials is the glue which sustains local democracy and it will be important for Council’s constituents to know that the Hamilton ethical framework meets, or exceeds, standards in place elsewhere.”