Sunday, April 21, 2024

Integrity Commissioner Presents Update Report to Council

Meaford council was provided with an update on Monday, from Principles Integrity, the company that has provided Integrity Commissioner service to the municipality since 2018. In the report to council, which covered a two year period from September 2021 through December 2023, the Integrity Commissioner noted that just seven complaints about council’s conduct had been made, and none of those complaints rose to the threshold that would require an investigation.

Our approach to reviewing complaints starts with a determination as to whether an inquiry to us is within our jurisdiction, is beyond a trifling matter, is not either frivolous or vexatious, and importantly, whether in its totality it is in the public interest to pursue. We always look to the possibility of informal resolution in favour of formal investigation and reporting. Once a formal investigation is commenced, the opportunity to seek informal resolution is not abandoned,” the Integrity Commissioner noted in her report. “Where we are able to resolve a matter without concluding a formal investigation, our practice is to provide a written explanation in the form of a Disposition Letter to the complainant to close the matter. Often the respondent Member is involved in preliminary fact-finding and will also be provided with a summary of the disposition. Where formal investigations commence, they are conducted under the tenets of procedural fairness and Members are confidentially provided with the name of the Complainant when that information is necessary to enable them to respond to the allegations raised. During the period covered by this report, seven complaints have been received, all of which were concluded by disposition letter.”

While many see the Integrity Commissioner’s role as one of policing council’s activities upon receipt of a complaint, they are also a valuable resource for members of council seeking advice on ethics and conflict of interest-related issues, and over the two-year period covered by the report, members of council had sought such advice on 17 occasions.

This might contrast with the popular yet incorrect view that the role of the Integrity Commissioner is primarily to hold elected officials to account; to investigate alleged transgressions and to recommend ‘punishment’. The better view is that Integrity Commissioners serve as an independent resource, coach, and guide, focused on enhancing the municipality’s ethical culture,” the Integrity Commissioner noted in her report, adding later in the report that, “The perception that a community’s elected representatives are operating with integrity is the glue which sustains local democracy. We live in a time when citizens are skeptical of their elected representatives at all levels. The overarching objective in appointing an Integrity Commissioner is to ensure the existence of robust and effective policies, procedures, and mechanisms that enhance the citizen’s perception that their Council (and local boards) meet established ethical standards and where they do not, there exists a review mechanism that serves the public interest.”

Councillor Steve Bartley asked the Integrity Commissioner if the seven complaints that had been made was considered a significant number. Council was advised that it is not considered a large number of complaints, particularly over a two-year period.

That’s not an unusual number at all to see,” the Integrity Commissioner advised.

Principles Integrity provides Integrity Commissioner services to more than 60 of the 444 municipalities in Ontario. It was selected by council to provide the service in 2018.

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,” Matt Smith, Municipal Clerk at the time, now also Interim CAO, told council in his 2018 report, when Principles Integrity was selected to provide the service for the Municipality of Meaford.

The full six-page report is available on the municipal website (meaford.ca)

Popular this week

Latest news