$10,462.50 (plus HST)

The cost of having our Integrity Commissioner review comments made by members of Council in the local media was released today.

$10,462.50 (plus HST). 

Having a Code of Conduct for members of Council and an independent person to investigate alleged contraventions of the Code is the right thing to do

Why?

Our Code was developed by Guelph citizens.  It establishes a common basis for the ethical behaviour of members of Council and local boards. The standards serve to enhance public confidence that the City’s elected and appointed representatives operate from a base of integrity, justice and courtesy. Having an independent person – not the Mayor, not the CAO – to investigate alleged contraventions of the Code ensures objectivity.  That is the role of the Integrity Commissioner.  The Integrity Commissioner is appointed by Council and conducts an investigation of an alleged contravention of the Code at the direction of Council. Anyone – a member of Council, City staff or the public – can request an investigation.

When you are talking about an alleged contravention of the code, there is a good chance someone is going to hear something they don’t like.  No kidding.  Knee-jerk and self-interested reactions in other municipalities has seen Integrity Commissioners let go after they deliver their opinion.  It is true.  Sometimes what they have to say is not easy to hear or comfortable to deal with.  Don’t shoot the messenger.

The experience of other municipalities is that investigations by Integrity Commissioners can become very costly.  Our former City Clerk clearly outlined this fact to members of Council when they made the decision to appoint an Integrity Commissioner.  This can be avoided by:

  • Respecting the Code of Conduct developed by our citizens
  • Treating others how you would like to be treated (follow the Golden Rule)
  • Learning how to “disagree without being disagreeable” to effectively and professionally execute your oversight responsibilities on behalf of the taxpayer.

In this case, the Integrity Commissioner’s report was about much more than a newspaper article. It was about strengthening Council’s working relationship with the administration and bringing clarity to our respective roles. This is fundamental work to improving service and delivering results to the community.  Work that we are doing.

You can read more about the Integrity Commissioner and other accountability and transparency measures by clicking here.

Members of City Council are responsible for providing oversight of annual expenditures of over $400,000,000. Investment in ethical conduct is prudent.

New: In response to Ron’s comment below, I have added the invoice to this post – you can view it here: IC Invoice

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About Karen Farbridge

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7 Comments on “$10,462.50 (plus HST)”

  1. Ron Says:

    I cannot believe the mayor finds $10 000 for a “report” on ethical conduct a prudent expense. Councillors should be able to hold staff and each other accountable without fear of being reprimanded if they disagree or require more information.

    Stop WASTING tax payers dollars on this nonsense.

  2. Jennifer Says:

    I have to agree with Ron. The saddest part is that the report was not even complete! For $10000 you would think all of the players should have been interviewed in person. I’m tired of reading about childish and petty bickering on council, and I find it even more irritating that taxpayer dollars are being wasted on this nonsense. I certainly don’t think this has “strengthened Council’s working relationship” with each other or with anyone else. If anything, it seems to have deepened the dividing lines.

  3. kfarbridge Says:

    Only Council can request a full investigation. They did not. They asked for a review of the newspaper article.

    The newspaper article contained information from a confidential memo. That confidential information had been supplied by a member of Council – a contravention of the Code of Conduct.

    The newspaper article contained comments from a Councillor regarding the performance of a member of staff – also a contravention of the Code of Conduct. Absolutely, members of Council have a responsibility to address concerns regarding the performance of staff member but not through the media. There are established professional avenues to fulfill this responsibility.

    All members of Council signed the Code of Conduct at the beginning of the term.

    I disagree that this will not result in improved practices and greater clarity about roles and responsibilities around the horseshoe – it already has.

    I do agree that this is an unnecessary use of taxpayers’ money. The very simple way to avoid such an expense is to respect the Code of Conduct developed by our citizens.

  4. Ron Says:

    I don’t disagree with the fundamentals of having a Code of Conduct nor an Integrity Commissioner. What I disagree with, and consider wasteful, is the city being billed $10 000 for a “partial investigation. According the Tribune, this lawyer bills at $235 per hour. Did he really spend 44 hours investigating this?
    Could the invoice be made available for viewing? This council does strive for “transparency” after all and making an itemized invoice available for all citizens to see would go a long way to building and restoring trust in this council.

  5. Jennifer Says:

    After $10000 spent, has someone been held accountable for the breach of the Code of Conduct? I absolutely agree that if members sign the Code of Conduct, they must abide by it. That said, the fact that the newspaper article contained confidential information told you that a member of Council supplied the information to the newspaper. If the breach was already evident, was it necessary to spend the money to have someone tell Council what they already knew?

    There have been questions about compliance with the Code of Conduct before. What exactly are the repercussions for a breach?

  6. kfarbridge Says:

    While we have had a Code of Conduct in place for a few years, the appointment of an Integrity Commissioner to independently address the application of the Code is new.

    Independence is important. The independent review of suspected contraventions of the Code, especially in light of some of the areas it covers, is essential to ensuring the integrity of the process.

    Integrity Commissioners, through the Ontario Municipal Act, have the authority to respond to requests to investigate suspected contraventions of the Code of Conduct and can recommend the following penalties to a Council if they conclude there had been a contravention:

    Issue a motion of reprimand;
    Suspend the remuneration paid to the Member in respect of their services as a Member for a period of up to 90 days;
    Remove the Member from committees or local board appointments;
    Request an apology;
    Withhold confidential materials/matters for a period of time.

    The Integrity Commissioner did publically identify the two members of Council that contravened the Code of Conduct through their comments to the media. I do believe these members have been held accountable for their actions.

  7. ksulliva Says:

    Hi Ron,

    In response to your request to provide an itemized invoice, the mayor asked me to post it. You can find it added to the main post above.

    Thanks,
    Kate Sullivan
    Mayor’s Office

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