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New conduct rules coming for Clearview Township councillors

In Clearview
Jul 18th, 2018
Janice Atwood-Petkovski

Janice Atwood-Petkovski

by Ian Adams Wasaga Sun

Clearview Township councillors will soon have a code to live by.

Councillors were given an overview of the municipality’s first code of conduct, by the township’s first integrity commissioner, ahead of their July 16 council meeting.

The code covers a municipal councillor’s conduct with respect to fellow council members, staff and the public, as well as how they handle confidential information, deal with the media and situations in which they may have a conflict of interest.

Recent changes to the Municipal Act require municipalities to have a code of conduct in place by March 1, 2019.

Among other matters, the code introduces a broader definition of family than what’s in the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, as well as defining what matters could or could not disqualify a councillor from taking part in a decision — along with a framework that if a councillor is not disqualified from taking part, there is a means for that individual to still provide full disclosure and state how they can remain impartial.

“That’s more challenging in a small town, but it is equally important in the community that there’s a sense of ground rules,” said Janice Atwood-Petkovski of Principles Integrity, the firm now used by local municipalities under an agreement with the County of Simcoe. “There is a perception that a community’s elected representative are operating with integrity is the glue which sustains local democracy … Political leaders are held to a higher standard, and there is an expected to carry out their duties with impartiality.”

The code, Atwood-Petkovski said, is intended to set a level of procedural fairness.

The code also sets out procedures for when a council member runs afoul of the rules, and whether a complaint is handled through a formal or informal process — along with potential penalties.

One element introduced by the firm are commentaries to each rule to describe how that rule applies.

“Legislation and rules can be dry, and the commentaries can bring some life to it,” she said. “It can help the public and members of council to interpret the rules.”

The code of conduct will come forward to council’s July 30 meeting for approval.

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