Barrie general committee recommends council code of conduct
By Michele Lawson Barrie Advance August 11 2010
BARRIE – Despite the outspoken accusations and investigations that have plagued the current city council, a draft code of conduct policy passed without a whisper through general committee Monday.
“I think a code of conduct shouldn’t be necessary, but it is,” Ward 2 Coun. Jeff Lehman told The Advance. “With council terms now four years, an extra layer of accountability is appropriate, and recent events have shown that there needs to be ramifications when council members’ actions are unworthy of the office.”
If passed at council Aug. 23, the new policy would require members of council, local boards and council committees to follow new guidelines effective Dec. 1. The revised Municipal Act gave communities the authority to establish such a code in 2001. It also allowed for the appointments of an integrity commissioner, an auditor general and ombudsman and the establishment of a lobbyist registry.
A survey of members of council by the clerk’s department determined support for a code of conduct, and garnered requests for more information about the ramifications of bringing in an integrity commission, according to the report.
Resulting research returned few comparable codes elsewhere.
Other options, including an auditor general and ombudsman, were not embraced by the majority surveyed.
Ward 9 Coun. Andrew Prince disagrees.
“There should be a set of principles guiding the ethical performance of not only the elected members, but it is important to also have committee appointees included in the conduct of the public duties,” he wrote via email. “It is also my belief that we should have a municipal ombudsman.”
Prices said he is directly dealing with one inquiry from a resident who is “extremely frustrated with some senior staff and has no ‘official’ course of action.”
At the next council meeting, members will have the opportunity to discuss the draft code – which calls for, among other things, honesty, integrity, accountability and transparency.
The staff report also recommends the appointment of a contracted integrity commissioner who would:
• inform members of obligations,
• provide specific advice,
• answer public queries,
•investigate alleged breaches, and
• report annually to council.
If implemented, an approved code of conduct should be reviewed after the first 18 months in operation, staff suggests, with any recommended changes being reported back to general committee.
There have been questions from the public wondering if such a code exists for city council, according to the clerk’s office that authored the report. While one has existed since January 2004 for Barrie’s public employees, politicians have not been included.
A current procedural bylaw deals only with the conduct of the mayor and councillors during a meeting.
Note: AWARE Simcoe has adopted a policy statement which includes a call for Simcoe County to adopt a code of conduct for councillors with guidelines for appropriate behaviour and conduct that ensure openness, transparency and equity in the county’s processes as well as providing for a complaint protocol.”