A Column y by Town of Pelham Mayor Dave Augustyn
Posted May 1st, 2017 on Niagara At Large
Town of Pelham in Niagara, Ontario – An odd thing happened at Regional Council last week. On a vote of 14 in favour and 11 against, Council nearly did not approve the agenda for our Thursday, April 28th meeting.
What does that mean, and why?
The first order of business for any municipal council is to approve the agenda – that is agree on what to discuss and consider during the meeting. It’s usually approved without fanfare and the meeting begins.
But last week, after some other Councillors and I outlined our concern that the Chair neglected to include three Integrity Commissioner’s reports, 11 Councillors spontaneously voted against the incomplete agenda.
You may recall that, after some high-profile public protests, Council reinstated an Integrity Commissioner (IC) on December 8, 2016 and forwarded four Code of Conduct complaints about Regional Councillors. As others made subsequent complaints, Staff forwarded them to the IC.
On February 2, 2017, the IC submitted two reports to the Region on investigations about the conduct of two Councillors. In each case, the IC did not find a breach of the Code of Conduct and did not recommend any action by Council. Therefore, Staff simply published the reports to the public and Council on March 24.
Since then, a Regional Councillor revealed that the Integrity Commissioner investigated him and completed three Code of Conduct violation reports. Further, Staff revealed by email that the IC filed these reports to the Region on February 14, 2017.
In essence, this means that the Integrity Commissioner completed three investigations, determined that a Councillor(s) breached the Code of Conduct, and issued reports to the Region in February with recommendations on how to handle the contraventions.
Why is this important?
To use a hockey analogy, if there is bad behaviour on the ice, the referee blows the whistle, stops the game, and makes a ruling. In this case, the referee has blown the whistle, and now we need to know why.
At our meeting last Thursday, I asked the Regional Chair to explain why these reports were not included on either the March 2, March 30, or April 27 Council meeting agendas. (Why did I ask this? With knowledge of these three reports, it is ultimately then the Chair’s responsibility to “ensure the appropriate placement of items on the agenda.”)
Unfortunately, more than 10 weeks later, the reports have yet to see the light of day.
By the end of last week’s meeting, Regional Council directed Staff to include any future Integrity Commissioner reports automatically on the next/subsequent Council agenda. Thankfully, this means that the February reports will finally be dealt with on May 18 – our next meeting.
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