Council’s expanded code of conduct bylaw passes third reading

closed session

The expanded bylaw includes expanded sections on sexual harassment, workplace violence, additional clarity on pecuniary interest, and formal complaint processes.

by Colin smith

The legitimacy of council members doing business with the Town of Morinville has been highlighted in the process of developing and approving a new council code of conduct.

The bylaw establishing the new code was given third reading and approved at council’s regular meeting Tuesday. It had been introduced in February and given second reading March 8.

Before second reading the issue of adding a section of the code of conduct bylaw dealing with pecuniary interests was raised.

Councillors felt there was a need to provide more clarity about the status of monetary dealings between council members and the town, administration was directed to bring forward amendments that would further clarify “pecuniary interest.”

In a presentation to council at the Tuesday meeting the administration said that rather than add its own content to the bylaw, it would be best to simply refer to the Municipal Government Act, which supersedes the town bylaw in any event.

Pecuniary interest is defined in sections 169 and 170 of the act.

Councillor Rebecca Balanko noted that when she previously had a contract with the town while on council, it was alleged that she was somehow doing wrong and she felt her integrity was questioned.

She asked if there was anything that would prevent a council member from doing business with the town.

Acting Chief Administrative Officer Michelle Hay said that there is nothing in the Municipal Government Act that precludes council members from doing business with the town, if approved by council.

In fact, that council members will do business with municipalities is anticipated and the legislation aims to maximize the transparency and accountability with which it takes place, she indicated.

Deputy Mayor Stephen Dafoe declared that his business dealings with the town through this publication had also been questioned. As such, he stated that he did not currently offer the Town an ad contract nor would he envision doing so in the future.

“As someone who routinely had their name in local media for eight solid years, I can’t overstate the mark that leaves on one, on their business, on their family,” he said.

“But with the additional clarity that we have in this bylaw, with references to specific chapter and verse of the Municipal Government Act, I am confident that no other council member doing contractual and legal business with the town will ever have to endure that again.”

The bylaw as presented for third reading also incorporated approved amendments and additional language requested by council members at the March 22 meeting.

This includes recognition that individuals with complaints may have remedies beyond those set out in the code of conduct itself.

The amendment relates to new sections of the bylaw that deal with workplace harassment, sexual harassment and violence.

The new code of conduct provides for both informal and formal complaints processes.

In another new section dealing with the use of social media by council members, wording was changed from council members “may post on social media” to “when council members post on social media.”

The wording change was made to take away any impression that the bylaw governs whether they can use social media.
The Municipal Government Act mandates that councils must establish codes of conduct that govern all council members equally, and outlines what they must contain.

Morinville council enacted its initial code of conduct bylaw on May 8, 2018.

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