The Municipality of Meaford will join Grey County and other municipalities within the county to hire the services of an integrity commissioner after council unanimously supported the plan at their February 12 meeting.
While the appointment of an integrity commissioner has been optional for Ontario municipalities in the past, beginning next year it will be a requirement. Changes to Ontario's Municipal Act will take effect on March 1, 2019, and in addition to the requirement for municipalities to appoint an integrity commissioner, the role has also been expanded.
At their February 12 meeting council was told that with the expanded role of an integrity commissioner the following functions are included:
The application of the code of conduct for members of council and the code of conduct for members of local boards;
The application of any procedures, rules, and policies of the municipality and local boards governing the ethical behaviour of members of council and of local boards;
The application of sections 5, 5.1, and 5.2 of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act to members of council and of local boards;
Requests from members of council and of local boards for advice respecting their obligations under the code of conduct applicable to the member;
Requests from members of council and of local boards for advice respecting their obligations under a procedure, rule, or policy of the municipality or of the local board, as the case may be, governing the ethical behaviour of members;
Requests from members of council and of local boards for advice respecting their obligations under the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act;
The provision of educational information to members of council, members of local boards, the municipality and the public about the municipality’s codes of conduct for members of council and members of local boards and about the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.
“The Integrity Commissioner will enforce both the Municipality’s Council Code of Conduct, adopted through By-law 2016-22, and the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. Importantly, the Integrity Commissioner will now be able to provide advice and education to Council, rather than simply acting as an investigator of complaints,” municipal clerk Matt Smith told council.
In an effort to streamline costs and to have consistency, clerks from across the county discussed the possibility of joining together to hire the services of an integrity commissioner.
“Prior to the final passage of Bill 68, Clerks from across Grey County discussed the possibility of collective procurement of one Integrity Commissioner for both the County of Grey and any lower-tier municipalities that wished to participate. Staff at the County level led the process,” Smith told council. “A recruitment document was developed and issued to a short-list of qualified Integrity Commissioners, inviting proposals. Three proposals were received and Clerks from seven lower-tier municipalities, including the Municipality of Meaford, and the County, including the County CAO, met to review the proposals and select a preferred candidate.”
After completing the process, the county and participating municipalities selected a Vaughan-based company called Principles Integrity to take on the role of integrity commissioner.
“Principles Integrity is made up of two solicitors, Jeff Abrams and Janice Atwood-Petkovski, who both have extensive experience in the municipal field. Mr. Abrams most recently served as the Clerk for the City of Vaughan, while Ms. Atwood-Petkovski was the City Solicitor for both the City of Vaughan and the City of Hamilton. In addition to Grey County municipalities, Priniciples Integrity is the Integrity Commissioner for the City of Mississauga and the County of Simcoe,” Smith told council in his report.
Once officially appointed, Principles Integrity will conduct a full-day training session with council and senior municipal staff.
“The training will outline the role of the Integrity Commissioner, provide further detail on the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act and the Municipality’s Code of Conduct, and define the process for investigations and requests for advice,” council was told.
Each municipality will pay an annual retainer of $1,000, and Principles Integrity will charge an hourly fee of $230 for investigations and advice. There will also be a fee of $1,600 for a full day of training provided by the new integrity commissioner. The 2018 municipal budget includes $5,000 for integrity commissioner services.
“The County of Grey has offered to cover the cost of the review and update of the existing Council Code of Conduct, which was developed by a working group of Clerks from across the County in 2016,” Smith told council.