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Code of Conduct

New code of conduct to govern Pickering councillors
Moya Dillon
March 30, 2012
(durhamregion.com)
Councillor Pickles
David Pickles.  Pickering Councillor David Pickles Metroland file photo

PICKERING -- Residents will have a new avenue when making complaints about Pickering councillors through a new code of conduct.

Highlights of the code, put forth by Councillor David Pickles at a council meeting on Monday, March 26, include the hiring of an integrity commissioner, prohibition on gifts other than moderate hospitality with fixed limits and disclosure requirements, rules for interaction with the public and staff, rules to ensure the protection of confidential information and clear rules on use of City property.

Coun. Pickles based the document on a previous code created in 2007 by a task force on accountability and transparency, which was led by Mayor David Ryan.  Coun. Pickles also reviewed codes of conduct from municipalities across the GTA and sought input from Paul Bigioni, solicitor for the City of Pickering, and George Rust-D'eye, a leading municipal law expert and integrity commissioner for the City of Mississauga.

“A lot of expert opinions and views went into this document and I think the adoption of the code is an opportunity to send a collective commitment to the residents of Pickering,” Coun. Pickles said.

Coun. Bill McLean raised concerns regarding a stipulation that council could reimburse a complainant or councillor for legal expenses, but was reassured by Mr. Bigioni that any reimbursements would be at council's discretion.

Mr. Bigioni also defended what some councillors pegged as vague language, such as the stipulation that gifts of admission to events would not need to be disclosed if the member's attendance served a “legitimate municipal purpose.”

“That language is general by design,” Mr. Bigioni explained.

“The point being to enable an integrity commissioner to exercise his or her discretion and review all salient facts in reference to a specific complaint.  We find this general form of language better; in my experience the more you try to define something the more cracks there are to slip through.”

Despite some further debate, and failed amendments by councillors Jennifer O'Connell and Peter Rodrigues, the code of conduct was approved unanimously by council.

For Mayor Ryan, who originally proposed a code of conduct in 1997, the document was a long time coming.

“This is something I think the public's been looking for,” he said.

“It's important to note it doesn't prohibit council from doing things we need to do, but it does demand full disclosure.  It speaks to accountability and transparency and provides a mechanism for scrutiny.”

The new code of conduct will go into effect once an integrity commissioner is hired.

High time in Pickering for code of conduct
March 29, 2012
(durhamregion.com)

A new Pickering council code of conduct will go a long way toward ensuring residents have a council that is accountable and transparent.

It's been, as Paul McCartney sang, a long and winding road, but a City conduct code was unanimously approved by council Monday.

The code means an integrity commissioner will be hired.  It also sets out rules for councillor interaction with the public and staff, rules on the use of City property and rules to ensure confidential information is protected.  As well, councillors will be prohibited from accepting gifts beyond moderate hospitality, with fixed limits and disclosure requirements.

The code will come into effect when the integrity commissioner is hired.

The history of a council code of conduct goes back years, at least to 1997, when Mayor Dave Ryan put forth a conduct code.  A decade later, Pickering's task force on accountability and transparency created a code that was never approved.  Councillor David Pickles, who proposed the latest code, based it on that 2007 document.

“This is something I think the public's been looking for,” Mayor Ryan told the News Advertiser.

“It's important to note it doesn't prohibit council from doing things we need to do, but it does demand full disclosure.  It speaks to accountability and transparency and provides a mechanism for scrutiny.”

It begs the question: what took so long?

It's no secret that the current council has been criticized for not working together.  But the code addresses other issues that have come up such as councillors' expenses and, in at least one recent case, councillors blindsiding other members with a direct appeal to the public.

That the code was adopted unanimously is significant: when a code was introduced earlier this year, some councillors picked it apart and the issue seemed more that they didn't want a code in general.

“A lot of expert opinions and views went into this document and I think the adoption of the code is an opportunity to send a collective commitment to the residents of Pickering,” Coun. Pickles said at the meeting.

It should be a commitment of every Pickering councillor, present and future, to act accordingly with the code coming into place.  And accompanying it should be a belief that it is the right thing to do.

Pickering residents deserve no less.

Council Code of Conduct
As Approved by Council
March 26, 2012

Council Code of Conduct

Part I
Preamble

  1. This Code of Conduct is intended to complement the oath of office sworn by each of the Members of Council of the City of Pickering.
  2. Attaining an elected position within one's community is a privilege which carries significant responsibilities and obligations. Members of Council are held to a high standard as leaders of the community and are expected to become well informed on all aspects of municipal governance, administration, planning and operations. They are also expected to carry out their duties in a fair, impartial, transparent, professional and respectful manner.
  3. All members of the Council of the City of Pickering are committed to protecting and promoting the well-being and best interests of the citizens of the City with the highest standards of integrity and ethical conduct. This Code is an affirmation of this commitment. It recognizes and is based on the following key statements of principle:
    • Members are committed to performing their duties of office and arranging their private affairs, in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity of each Member and respect for Council as a whole
    • ...

Read the entire Council Code of Conduct document HERE.

Council Meeting
Notice of Motion: Code of Conduct
March 26, 2012

Code of Conduct

Councillor Pickles acknowledged the support of staff in preparing this code of conduct and provided a brief overview of the highlights of the document.  as well as clarification with respect to items addressed by the delegations.

Detailed discussions ensued with respect to election signs, reimbursements to members of Council, time frames for submission of reports and the receiving of gifts.  Clarification was also requested with respect to members on a Board of Directors.  It was also questioned whether the position of an Integrity Commissioner was to be a contract position or on a retainer basis.  The City Solicitor provided clarification to questions raised.

Resolution #45/12

Moved by Councillor Pickles
Seconded by Councillor Ashe

WHEREAS: the residents of the City of Pickering expect and deserve the best possible performance from their elected and appointed municipal representatives.

AND WHEREAS; many municipalities have adopted Codes of Conduct to better articulate transparency and acountability by Members of Council, Council-appointed members of committees, agencies, boards and commissions.

ANDWHEREAS: many municipalities have obtained the services of an Integrity Commissioner to assist with and oversee the implementation of their Codes of Conduct;

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED:

  1. That Members of Council and the City of Pickering approve and adopt the Code of Conduct as set out in Attachment 'A', and that the Code of Conduct take effect from A' the day on which the City selects an Integrity Commissioner;
  2. That City of Pickering staff prepare and implement any appropriate policies and procedures to adopt and implement the Code of Conduct;
  3. That City of Pickering staff report back to Council early in 2012 to recommend the most appropriate and cost effective approach for obtaining the services of an Integrity Commissioner;
  4. That staff include in the draft 2012 City of Pickering Budget sufficient funds for implementation of the Code of Conduct and for obtaining the services of an Integrity Commissioner;
  5. That staff take the appropriate steps to commicunicate to Pickering residents, City of Pickering employees, Members of Council, and Council appointed members of committees, agencies, boards and commissions the adoption and implementation of the Code of Conduct; and
  6. That staff work towards having the appropriate policies and procedures in place for implementation of the Code of Conduct and selection of an Integrity Commissioner by no later than September 1, 2012.

Carried Unanimously on a Recorded Vote

Notice of Motion
Code of Conduct
March 26, 2012

NOTICE OF MOTION

Code of Conduct

DATEMarch 26, 2012
MOVEDCouncillor David Pickles
SECONDED BYCouncillor Kevin Ashe

WHEREAS: the residents of the City of Pickering expect and deserve the best possible performance from their elected and appointed municipal representatives.

AND WHEREAS: many municipalities have adopted Codes of Conduct to better articulate transparency and accountability by Members of Council, Council-appointed members of committees, agencies, boards and commissions.

AND WHEREAS: many municipalities have obtained the services of an Integrity Commissioner to assist with and oversee the implementation of their Codes of Conduct;

Click here to read the remainder of the motion.

Councillor code of conduct required in Pickering
February 9, 2012
(durhamregion.com)

A Pickering council code of conduct should be implemented and if it's not will raise questions about transparency and accountability among the City's elected officials.

And puerile in-fighting, a problem on council for several years, shouldn't get in the way of having something set in stone.

Ward 2 City Councillor David Pickles is trying to bring the code of conduct back to the table.  In 2008, after a year of work by the Mayor's Task Force on Accountability and Transparency, council merely received the document for information rather than adopting it.  The original document made recommendations on matters such as a councillor's duties, the giving and receiving of gifts, interacting with the public and media relations.

Ward 2 Regional Councillor Bill McLean at the time argued that no council members should have been on the task force.  Mayor Dave Ryan and then-Councillor Bonnie Littley were a part of the group.  It also included Joanne Burghardt, editor-in-chief of Metroland Media Group's Durham Region Division.

But many of the points raised by councillors in rejecting the original document were highly questionable.  Some, it seems, were arguing for the sake of being difficult.

Councillor Pickles himself had issues with the original document.  He disagreed that each gift received by a councillor must be documented and with a rule that a councillor must obtain the full approval of council to use the City's logo or letterhead.

He used receiving a free cup of coffee as an example.  This issue could be worked out if the code set a dollar-value limit, saying that any gift over $10 or $20, for example, must be documented.

As for the use of the City's logo or letterhead, we saw last October how this can be abused and why this is something council needs to address.

If you recall, councillors McLean and Jennifer O'Connell, trying to push their choice of a name for the Hwy.  401 pedestrian bridge (Veteran's Walkway), used City letterhead to issue a press release implying council would not consider the name.  The implication was that the name was rejected outright, which was not the case.

If councillors nit-pick and again fail to adopt a code, Pickering residents could justifiably ask, ‘what's wrong with bringing more accountability and transparency to the table?’

Pickering to reintroduce code of conduct
Moya Dillon
February 9, 2012
(durhamregion.com)
Mayor Ryan
Mayor David Ryan.  Pickering Mayor David Ryan Sabrina Byrnes / Metroland file photo

PICKERING -- Issues such as independence and attention to detail are rearing their heads as councillors get set to discuss the introduction of a code of conduct to govern their behaviour.

A revamped version of a code of conduct that was originally proposed in 2008 will be brought back before council at its meeting on Monday, March 26.

“I think our council is a very good council and people follow the rules but this is just a way to avoid problems down the road by having clear rules,” said Councillor Dave Pickles, who is putting forward a motion to adopt the new code.

The code of conduct being introduced is based on a previous document drafted by the task force on accountability and transparency, which was formed by Mayor David Ryan in 2007 and included members of the public such as former MP and Whitby councillor Judi Longfield and Metroland Durham Region Media Group editor-in-chief Joanne Burghardt.

That document was presented to council for adoption in July 2008, but issues such as a lack of public input and independence from council prevented it from being adopted.  Councillors instead voted to receive it for information.

“I think this is a little more concise and clearer, it's very specific as to who it applies to and precise in setting specific limits of what's acceptable in terms of gifts,” Coun. Pickles said of the new code.

“My thought, and that of others, was to put very clear limits in here and not have anything open to interpretation.  I think the task force did a good job, I thought it could be worked with and brought up to the expectations of residents and what other municipalities have done.  I thought this was a good time to update it.”

In addition to regulations on accepting and reporting gifts, the code of conduct includes the hiring of an integrity commissioner to review matters related to the code, clear rules for interaction with public and staff, disclosure of conflicts, clear rules on use of City property, provision for residents to seek a formal review and more.

Mayor David Ryan said he is glad to see the document being reintroduced.

“There has to be a standard the general public can hold us to,” he said.  “It's an accepted fact that people in public life should be held to a higher standard, and adhere to it.  This sets out clear rules for transparency and accountability and offers common guidelines for every member of council to measure themselves to.”

But when it comes to possible adoption of the policy, the main question is whether the update has gone far enough to allay concerns that stalled the previous version.

“I think there's been some tweaking from the one presented last term, but certainly in spirit it's exactly the same and most of the content remains unchanged,” Mayor Ryan said.

“I certainly support it and will be supporting it and hopefully it will receive unanimous support.”

Coun. Jennifer O'Connell, who did not support the code in 2008, says the code doesn't go far enough towards accountability because it was not written by an independent, external expert.

“Politicians should not be policing themselves,” she said.

“I fully support an integrity commissioner and having a code of conduct but I feel we're being given a watered-down version of accountability.  There's no doubt in my mind that we need it but it needs to be independent.  An independent expert should be writing it and there should be more public input.”

Coun. Bill McLean said he shares the same concerns with regards to independence, but also wants to see a code that goes farther towards encouraging accountability.

“I'm glad it's coming back, I think it's something that's important to have, but a lot of things aren't in there as far as accountability goes,” he said, noting he'd like to see more detail regarding gifts and fundraisers.

“It's nice that we've started the process and there's a little bit of a foundation there but to have it done right it should be done by an independent person.  Hopefully we can write one we all agree upon, something that's got a little more teeth and is more than just window dressing.”

Seconding the code of conduct motion is Coun. Kevin Ashe, who was not on council when the code came up previously.

“We are in a post-scandal time and I think people expect higher levels of transparency from government,” Coun. Ashe said, citing the recent OLG scandal as one example of events that have made people more sensitive to government accountability.

“I think it's needed because it builds confidence in elected officials and provides a mechanism to review any items that are not above board.  I'm hopeful that all members of council will see value in it.”

Councillors Peter Rodrigues and Doug Dickerson could not be reached for comment.  The code of conduct will be discussed at the regular council meeting on Monday, March 26.

News Release
For Immediate Release
City of Pickering Draft Code of Conduct to be Introduced
Janaury 25, 2012

Pickering, ON, January 25, 2011 - Councillor David Pickles will be releasing a draft Code of Conduct for the City of Pickering that would, if adopted by Council, apply to the Mayor, Councillors and City Advisory Committee members, and replace the existing Council Code of Practice which was implemented back in 1997.

In 2007, Mayor David Ryan formed a Task Force on Accountability and Transparency which was comprised of a cross representation of the greater community along with key City staff.  After several months of review, research, and discussion, the Task Force developed a revised Code of Conduct which was ultimately received for information by the previous City Council.

At the beginning of this term of Council, Councillor Pickles committed to working with the existing document created by the Task Force in the hopes of successfully introducing a robust and accountable Code of Conduct for Council's adoption.  As such, he benchmarked other municipalities' codes of conduct and examined the expanding role of Integrity Commissioners in the municipal landscape.  Additionally, all Pickering Councillors were invited to provide input during the review process.

Following this review, Councillor Pickles now advises that on March 26th through a Notice of Motion to Council, seconded by Councillor Kevin Ashe, City Councillor, Ward 1, he will introduce the Code of Conduct for Council's consideration and adoption.  Councillor Pickles sees the adoption of the new Code of Conduct and Integrity Commissioner a common interest to all Councillors and residents and encourages Council support.

“I am confident that this Code is right for the City and raises the bar for Codes of Conduct in the GTA,” said Councillor Pickles.  “I will make the proposed Code of Conduct available on my website: www.davidpickles.com, the City's website: www.pickering.ca and to City Advisory Committees, registered residents associations and the public to provide the opportunity for review and input.  As always residents are welcome to contact me at dpickles@pickering.ca.”

Some of the key highlights of the draft Code of Conduct include:

  • hiring of an Integrity Commissioner to review matters related to the Code
  • prohibition on gifts other than moderate hospitality with fixed limits and disclosure requirements
  • clear rules for interaction with the public and staff
  • prohibition of undue influence in City administration
  • disclosure of conflicts
  • rules to ensure the protection of confidential information
  • clear rules on use of City property
  • rules governing involvement in charitable activities
  • rules governing election campaigns
  • provision for residents to seek a formal review

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Councillor Pickles is pleased to represent the resident of Ward 3. He was first elected to Council in 1997 and re-elected by Ward 3 residents in 2000, 2003, 2006 and 2010. He represents the City of Pickering on a number of committees and boards and works with residents and City staff to ensure excellent service delivery. He is active in environmental and neighbourhood safety issues and as a former Chair of the City's Pickering Advisory Committee on Race Relations and Equity, he has worked with committee members and cultural organizations to celebrate our rich diversity and enhance community relations.

Media Contact:

NameDavid Pickles
TitleCity Councillor - Ward 3
Email addressdpickles@cityofpickering.com
Phone number905.420.4605 ext:5442
TTY905.420.1739

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