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Ombudsman says municipal integrity commissioners need to be uniform across province

Ombudsman says municipal integrity commissioners need to be uniform across province

 The Ontario Ombudsman in his year-end report says there needs to be some standardization of the way Municipal Integrity Commissioners operate,  and that there should be a prescribed set of qualifications to be appointed an Integrity commissioner. Ombudsman Paul Dube says his office has received 14,000 complaints about municipalities over the past five years. Since March 1, 2019 all of Ontario’s more than 400 municipalities have been required to appoint an integrity commissioner but the results have been uneven. In some cases the integrity commissioner performs other duties for the municipality including being the clerk of the municipality. The Ombud wrote, “We have received several complaints from the public regarding integrity commissioners who also act in other capacities, such as municipal solicitor, policy advisor, workplace harassment investigator, or municipal clerk. For example, we received a complaint from an individual who felt unable to make a complaint to the integrity commissioner, as the facts related directly to advice that the integrity commissioner had provided to a member of council while acting as municipal clerk.”

Dube argued that there should be a uniform process for integrity commissioners to follow when reviewing complaints. He wrote, “For example, we reviewed a complaint from a councillor who was sanctioned in the wake of an integrity commissioner’s investigation, even though the councillor was not interviewed and had no opportunity to speak to the allegations. The report did not provide evidence to support the findings and recommendations. In another case, an integrity commissioner decided they did not have to inform complainants of the outcome of an investigation, or even that the process had concluded. This left complainants in the dark.”

The report also pointed out that there are not uniform codes of conduct for municipalities across the province. He recommended that the Ministry should establish professional standards and/or an accreditation process for integrity commissioners, including core competencies and a system of peer review.

The recommendations regarding municipal Integrity Commissions was only one subject area touched on in the report. The Ombudsman’s full activity report can be accessed here.

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