CAG looked over IC reports from municipalities such as Vaughan, Toronto, London, Guelph, Hamilton, and Windsor and concluded that the recently released IC report from Norman Groot is consistent with the way other ICs function. Much of the time spent by ICs in other jurisdictions is in being available to give advice to Council members so that they can avoid violating a Code of Conduct.
Richmond Hill's Code of Conduct emphasizes the acceptance of gifts and benefits; confidential information; council, staff and public relations; use of municipal property; adherence of by-laws, policies and procedures; and respect in the workplace.
The main point made in the report just issued is that Councillor conduct within a Council meeting is to be regulated by the Chair of the meeting who has the authority to identify and stop any behaviour that is inappropriate. The IC apparently went over this authority and responsibility with the Chair hoping to head off future complaints to the IC which are not in the IC's jurisdiction.
The IC also reported that early in his mandate, the Councillors were given a workshop in civility and that they have been reminded that their behaviour towards each other and to the public at Council meetings needs to improve given the number of complaints that have arisen.
Action! Take the time to review the report in its entirety to understand the full scope of the responsibility of the Integrity Commissioner.
The volume of formal complaints is relatively high for Richmond Hill, especially in light of its smaller Council. Given the volume and nature of the Code complaints, as well as the fact that all of them concerned conduct alleged to be rude, abusive or disrespectful, as a preliminary step in handling these files we engaged in legal research in order to develop guidelines for assessing whether certain conduct alleged to be rude, abusive or disrespectful actually constitutes a violation of the Code of Conduct.
The volume and nature of the formal complaints made under the Code of Conduct raises concerns that the role and jurisdiction of the Integrity Commissioner is misunderstood
The main issue in a large majority of the complaints was the conduct of councillors at Council or Committee meetings. We reviewed the applicable policies and procedures for the City of Richmond Hill, and also reviewed reports by Integrity Commissioners in other jurisdictions. This analysis led us to the conclusion that the Integrity Commissioner likely does not have the jurisdiction to investigate those type of complaints, as the conduct of councillors at Council or committee meetings is properly addressed under the Procedure By-law.
The Procedure By-law sets clear rules of decorum and gives the meeting chair all the tools necessary to enforce order
Although the Integrity Commissioner may lack the jurisdiction to investigate misconduct at Council and Committee meetings, it is important to note that there is work to be done to improve this conduct in light of feedback from members of the public who find raised concerns by conduct of Members that is described as “intimidating”, “unprofessional” and “egregious”.