Code of Conduct sections on workplace harassment, sexual harassment and violence, and the opportunity for independent adjudicator have been added.
by Colin Smith
Town council’s proposed new code of conduct will contain an acknowledgement that individuals with complaints may have remedies beyond those in the code bylaw itself.
The recognition came in an amendment made before council passed the second reading of the bylaw, which provides a revised version of its current code of conduct, at its regular meeting Mar. 8. Council approved the first reading of the draft bylaw on January 22.
The amendment relates to new sections of the bylaw that deal with workplace harassment, sexual harassment and violence.
According to the amendment, while the formal complaint process set out in the bylaw is meant to deal with violations of the code of conduct that does not preclude an individual from taking advantage of other applicable legislation, acts or ordinances.
The measure was initially put forward by Councillor Ray White.
“When people have a process to go through dealing with a violation of a bylaw they seem to think that it’s the only process available to them,” White said.
“When you get into situations where there is discrimination or other forms of abuse that may come about it’s important that everybody understands that this bylaw doesn’t preclude them from accessing the Human Rights Act or the Occupational Health and Safety Act.”
White said it is also important to understand municipal bylaws do not supersede provincial or federal law.
The new code of conduct provides for both informal and formal complaints processes.
Included in the formal complaints policy would be the establishment of an administration relations committee to handle such matters.
In the formal process, all complaints about the conduct of council members are to be addressed to council and the administration relations committee, which may appoint an investigator or adjudicator in the matter.
Another new section deals with the use of social media by council members.
If the bylaw revisions are accepted, they will be required not to knowingly publish anything that is dishonest, untrue, unsubstantiated, offensive, disrespectful, that constitutes harassment, is defamatory or misleading in any way.
Deputy Mayor Stephen Dafoe moved an amendment to the wording of the section, which stated that councill members “may post on social media,” while they should refrain from doing so during meetings, or discussing matters that are confidential, quasi-judicial or attorney-client privileged.
His preferred wording was that “when council members post to social media” they should refrain from those actions.
“The crux of the matter is that as a free person the bylaw does not allow me or not allow me to post on social media,” Dafoe said. “The bylaw should govern how I conduct myself on social media.”
The amendment passed.
Also discussed was the need for the section of the code of conduct bylaw dealing with pecuniary interests to provide more clarity about the status of monetary dealings between council members and the town.
Following approval of the second reading of the bylaw, the third reading was referred to the March 22 council meeting and the administration was directed to bring forward amendments that would further clarify “pecuniary interest.”