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Mayor won’t elaborate on council allegations he referenced

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In New Tecumseth
Nov 20th, 2013
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New Tecumseth Free Press November 20, 2013

On Monday night, New Tecumseth mayor Mike MacEachern told councillors that he raised the issue of an Integrity Commissioner as a means of dealing with future complaints related to the Code of Conduct. But he would not when pressed via emails today to explain his references to “a number of instances, where individual council members have made allegations and accused other members of council with regard to fairly serious things, and at the end of the day it turns out there’s rarely any evidence that supports the allegations that are being made.”

Mayor MacEachern was asked by Free Press Online to cite examples of what the “fairly serious” allegations were he was alluding to, and what if any internal process took place to conclude that they were without merit. “The discussion on Monday night was not about about a specific instance but rather aimed at establishing a process by which if a concern is raised it could be formally dealt with and publicly reported on,” he replied. “The integrity commissioner would be a resource for updating the code and educating members. As best practices in municipal governance evolve, our goal is to be proactive in having an established process and reporting system in place.”

Asked again to clarify the allegations, he said only, “I take all of Council’s concerns seriously. Again, the discussion was not about a specific instance but rather aimed at establishing a process by which if a concern is raised it could be formally dealt with and publicly reported on.” Innisfil recently hired an integrity commissioner who will be paid $550 per hour when working on a particular claim. There was no timeline set for New Tecumseth, other than a report back was pending “at the earliest opportunity that we can.”

Mayor calls for Integrity Commissioner on heels of ‘fairly serious’ allegations

New Tecumseth Free Press November 19. 2013

New Tecumseth mayor Mike MacEachern told councillors last night that council’s two page Code of Conduct is missing teeth, and those come in the form of an Integrity Commissioner.

“Why I raised the Code of Conduct at this particular time is, during this term of council, I’ve become aware of a number of instances, where individual council members have made allegations and accused other members of council with regard to fairly serious things, and at the end of the day it turns out there’s rarely any evidence that supports the allegations that are being made, and I think that’s unfortunate,” said mayor MacEachern.

“I think these types of accusations are damaging to the reputations of the members.” At this post, the mayor had not replied to emailed questions this morning asking what the allegations were, to whom they were directed, and what internal process took place that deemed the complaints to be without merit. An Integrity Commissioner reports to council and is responsible for the application of the Code of Conduct and of any procedures, rules and policies of the municipality governing the ethical behaviour of members of council, staff, and local boards.

“I think when we put in the Code of Conduct, a piece that we missed at the time, and maybe didn’t feel we needed, was the fact that as a municipality we can appoint an Integrity Commissioner, not because I think anyone has done anything wrong on council, but I think it would be important for us to put an Integrity Commissioner in place in order to allow for a complaint to be appropriately dealth with. There needs to be a system in place where if a complaint is lodged by the public or another member of council there’s actually a process that could be followed in order to get to the bottom of the complaint that’s been lodged, and people would have an opportunity for due process. And right now we don’t have, in my opinion, a process to allow that to happen. I think it opens the opportunity if people in the public do have a concern of a member of council not meeting the Code of Conduct they could raise that in formal process, go through an inquiry, the Integrity Commissioner determines the outcome.”

On Nov. 7th, John Mascarin of Aird & Berlis LLP became Integrity Commissioner for the remainder of the current term of Council and the first quarter of the new term for the Town of Innisfil. Mr. Mascarin will be paid an hourly rate of $550 when his services are required. Earlier this year, Innisfil adopted a new Code of Conduct that has 24 sections, and includes Gifts and hospitality, sponsorships or donations for community events, attire and appearance, complaint protocol, complaint procedure, and “whistle-blower” protection.

New Tecumseth’s Code of Conduct has eight sections, mostly mimmicking provincial legislation, and none of the above referenced guidelines including enforcement provisions or penalities. “I think we’re in a process now where we have a code, we need a way for that code to be enforced, and also for us to have the advice of somebody to help us with that Code of Conduct so that’s the reason I brought it on the agenda,” said mayor MacEachern. “I have thought about it for some time and I just think it’s important that we went the one step by putting a Code of Conduct in place, but I think we need to go to the next step and have an Integrity Commissioner that can help us with that process.” Because senior administration is currently focused on the 2014 budget process, there was no firm timeline provided for a report to act on the appointment, other than “at the earliest opportunity that we can,” said CAO Terri Caron.

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