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Port Stanley News RSS Feed  News An apology may well be in order

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This is a report on a complaint filed in accordance with the Code of Conduct with the Municipality of Central Elgin regarding an incident at a Central Elgin Council Meeting on June 26th, 2017.

Report on a Complaint

filed in accordance with the

Code of Conduct (Affidavit)

Municipality of Central Elgin

Prepared by: John G.Maddox, JGM Consulting

As the Integrity Commissioner for the Municipality of Central Elgin I received - via the Clerk's office a complaint under your Code of Conduct. The appropriate fee and affidavit were filed in the office of the Municipal Clerk.

The affidavit is dated August 8th, 2017 and identifies two sections of your Code of Conduct, Section B (7) -- Avoidance of Waste and Section C (1) (2) -- Human Rights and Harassment. The complaint alleges that two members may be in breach of the Code of Conduct. I have had an opportunity to speak to Municipal Officials - the complainant and the two members that are under challenge on this matter.

As Integrity Commissioner, my role is to assess the behaviour of individual members with respect to complaints and does not include any review of the decision-making process. My initial review of this matter suggests that very clearly a part of these concerns rests with the Council decision process pertaining to a matter that was before Council. A ratepayer in the Municipality appeared as a delegation to Council on June 26th, 2017 to make her concerns known to Council. The complainant alleges that upon completion of her presentation two members of Council made remarks that were "unwelcome" and in fact contrary to the standards outlined in the Code of Conduct. Thus, the reference to the Sections of the Code of Conduct that were identified in the Affidavit.

The Municipal Code of Conduct very clearly sets standards that are expected to be adhered to by all members on all occasions. The Code of Conduct does suggest that Council has the obligation "To treat every person with dignity, understanding and respect."

The remarks following the presentation are clearly the catalyst for this Complaint.

The complainant has acknowledged that the decision-making process of Council is not something on which I have any jurisdiction as Integrity Commissioner and consequently will not involve myself in that discussion. The complainant further acknowledged that the Council decision regarding this matter (portable washroom) is a separate matter.

I have had an opportunity to discuss this situation (incident) with all of those who were directly involved in this and on that basis do have a much better understanding of the background that led to the June 26th incident and the subsequent Complaint.

I have had an opportunity to examine the circumstances around this Complaint and am satisfied that the facts and discussions around this matter are not in dispute.

There are two sections of the Code of Conduct that have been identified and I will deal with each of them separately:

SECTION B (7)-Avoidance of Waste

The Complaint does not identify any specific waste other than to suggest the expenditures related to this matter were "wasteful". In my opinion, the decision to spend any money on this matter was one made by Council as a group. I have no evidence to suggest that an "individual member of Council" demonstrated ''wasteful" behaviour. The decision to expend funds on this project was the responsibility of Council and they exercised that responsibility.

SECTION C (1) (2) - Human Rights Guarantees not to engage in Harassment.

This component of the Complaint is not as straight forward - the "Code of Conduct" does suggest in part that Council has the obligation "To treat every person with dignity, respect and understanding."

That clearly sets the stage for a level of conduct that provides for ratepayers to feel comfortable in addressing concerns to Council in a way that would provide for a reasonable dialogue.

Council in their Code of Conduct have set standards that insure visitors to Council are treated with dignity, respect and understanding. The members of Council have committed to these standards.

The Human Rights and Harassment component of this complaint leaves me with a dilemma - I don't believe that there is sufficient evidence for me to rule in favour of this Complaint. There are a lot of elements to a Human Rights challenge (Harassment) for which I find not sufficient evidence to rule in favour of the complainant in this instance.

I do however, in my role as Integrity Commissioner feel obligated to comment further about the incident of June 26th, 2017. I cannot condone the exchange that has been identified in the Complaint - the facts are not in dispute and I believe that kind of dialogue does not live up to the standards outlined in your Code of Conduct - while I don't believe it to constitute harassment it is clearly inappropriate and does not serve the interest and business decorum of the Council chamber. An apology may well be in order.

I believe it would be helpful for all members to review and understand the commitment that your Code of Conduct provides in establishing a public trust that is one of the cornerstones to healthy democracy.

I can recommend external resources to provide guidance in this regard if you wish.

Respectfully submitted

John J. Maddox
JGM Consulting


Last Updated: Monday, 11 September 2017 09:23:01 AM EST

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