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County councillors flirt with establishing a Code of Conduct

In Simcoe County
Nov 21st, 2013

New Tecumseth Free Press November 11, 2013

A Simcoe County governance committee meeting scheduled for last month but cancelled, will try again this week to deal with a proposed Code of Conduct that would augment Municipal Act guidelines for councillors. In this case, a Code of Conduct would be a first for Simcoe County council, which is made up of the mayors and deputy mayors from the 16 lower tier municipalities. “These guidelines are not intended to be exhaustive,” according to the draft document’s preamble. “They are intended to assist members of Council in matters of conduct, to avoid any potential for conflict of interest and to assist members in serving the public in a manner beyond reproach.”

The draft Code includes measures dealing with Accountability and Transparency, Confidentiality; Gifts and Benefits: “no Member shall directly or indirectly solicit any gift or accept/receive a fee, advance, cash, gift, or personal benefit which may be tied or inferred to be tied directly or indirectly to their position or the performance of his/her duties of office unless permitted by the exceptions listed below.” However, there are 11 exceptions including “sponsorships and donations for community events or initiatives organized or run by a member or a third party on behalf of a Member where Council has authorized or endorsed the event or initiative;” and “food and beverages consumed at banquets, receptions, or similar events, if: (i) attendance serves a legitimate business purpose; (ii) the value is reasonable and the invitations infrequent.” There’s also a provision for Improper use of influence ”

Examples of prohibited conduct are the use of one’s status as a Member to improperly influence the decision of another person to the private advantage of oneself, or one’s parents, children, spouse, staff members, friends, or associates (business or otherwise). This would include attempts to secure preferential treatment beyond activities in which members normally engage on behalf of their constituents as part of their official duties. Also prohibited is the holding out of the prospect or promise of future advantage through a Member’s supposed influence within Council in return for present actions or inaction.”

Should a member be found in contravention of the Code of Conduct by an Integrity Commissioner penalties can include a) a reprimand; b) Suspension of remuneration for a period of up to 90 days. Council reserves the right to censure an individual member where the conduct is deemed to be unacceptable and a “right and obligation to report any transgressions of an illegal matter to the appropriate police authority.”

County councillors still have to approve the package.

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