June 18th, 2024

Council passes motion to hire integrity commissioner


By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on February 16, 2022.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

Lethbridge City Council has passed by a 6-2 vote a recommendation by its Governance Standing Policy Committee to direct administration to develop a plan to hire an integrity commissioner on a two-year trial basis.

The motion approved the establishment of the integrity commissioner position and funding for up to $50,000 in 2022.

Administration is being tasked to developed an initiative for the 2023-2026 operating budget deliberations for the position.

Council has directed the hiring process to the Governance Standing Policy Committee.

In January, city council asked the SPC to provide a report to council no later than March 1. The committee was specifically tasked with focusing on two of three options presented by city solicitor Adam Faust.

To create such a position would require the amendment of Council Code of Conduct Bylaw 6125.

Options brought forward by Faust include broadening the ability to pursue a complaint from only council members to the public as a whole.

The second option is to hire an integrity commissioner on a retainer basis while the third option, 2(b), is to hire a commissioner who would also provide ethical advice. This latter option 2(b) is administration’s preference, council was told.

Under the existing code of conduct bylaw, only council members can file a complaint that a fellow member has acted in breach of that bylaw.

Administration’s report says that opening complaints up to the public could create better transparency and increase public confidence in government. Both Edmonton and Calgary have full-time integrity commissioners.

Administration’s recommendation, council was told last month, is for council to approve 2(b) because it lets the integrity commissioner “filter and investigate complaints. This is good for ensuring compliance and correcting contraventions. However, it also adds the education piece which can avoid compliance and continue to grow ethical situations in the future,” says the report.

The motion Tuesday sparked debate from acting mayor Rajko Dodic who questioned the need for such a position and who wanted to know how often it would be used.

Deputy mayor Belinda Crowson said the position would show the public that council is serious about ethics and integrity.

Mayor Blaine Hyggen said the matter had been addressed by prior councils and cited concerns about the costs to the taxpayer given the $50,000 annual cost.

“It doesn’t make sense financially at this time,” said the mayor.

Dodic, a former Lethbridge mayor, said he is going to rely on his fellow council members to conduct themselves ethically while serving the community.

Dodic wondered if the position had been in place for the last half dozen or so years how often would the public have been able to avail themselves of it.

“This is apparently trying to perhaps solve problems that exist but if they exist, they exist very rarely,” said Dodic.

Crowson said “we need it because this is something that is very hard for council to investigate themselves which is what we’ve had in the past.

“This not something that I think we’re going to be using on an ongoing basis every month, every week, every day. But it’s something that would be used several times within a council term and hopefully if council behave, it wouldn’t be used at all,” Crowson said.

The two-year trial was added to the motion at the suggestion of councillor John Middleton-Hope who said he would prefer a sunset clause be included.

“With all due respect, from my past experience on council if members of the public had complaints about members of council, they had mechanisms to be able to register their complaints,” said Dodic.

Hyggen said during his time as a councillor, the felt the matter was dealt with “in a very fair manner.”

Crowson said the commissioner is a way to make sure the public has a role to play, “a chance to be able to say ‘I don’t know what you did here, I don’t understand what you did, I don’t like what you did,’ whatever their point of view is, that they can bring it forward.”

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Citi Zen

Wow! Yet another non-productive, do-nothing overpaid City Hall job! Who dreams these up, anyhow?

bladeofgrass

I think the integrity officer would be better suited to investigate City admin managers.