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Amended draft code of conduct adds 'censure,' allows for some 'personal use'

Posted January 24, 2014

Simcoe County council's first draft Code of Conduct presented in November to its governance committee then sent back to staff for further revisions, is back on the agenda January 28 including an amendment that would allow "occasional or incidental personal use" the laptop computer each councillor is issued.

Currently, County resources, including computers, can only be used for County business.

"Members may only use County property, including land, facilities, equipment, supplies, services, staff or other resources (for example, County owned materials, computers, networks, websites) for activities directly connected with the discharge of their official County duties or, or as appropriate, local municipal duties," according to the amended draft. "Occasional or incidental personal use of County computers or similar devices and communication systems is considered acceptable, subject to the provisions of the Municipal Elections Act.  Such use may be subject to the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act."

The amended draft code of conduct also inserts a new measure to "accompany the enforcement provisions, that criteria be established for the sanctions, and that the definition section be expanded to include 'censure.' It was also suggested that a culture of professional discourse of councillors was an expectation and should be emphasized as such within the document."

Contraventions of Council's Code of Conduct will be reported to the Warden.

The Warden will be authorized to take the necessary actions to address the issue, including, but not limited to:
a) dismissing the matter;
b) reporting the prohibited behaviour or activities directly to the Member(s) involved, and encouraging the member(s) to stop the prohibited behaviour or activity and avoid future occurrences of the prohibited behaviour or activity;
c) reporting the transgression to Council.

Upon the report of the Warden, Council has the right to appoint an Integrity Commissioner who, in turn, has an obligation to conduct an independent investigation and then report back to Council.

As prescribed in legislation, penalties that may be imposed by the Municipality where the Integrity Commissioner reports that a Member of Council has contravened the Code of Conduct include:
a) a reprimand;
b) Suspension of remuneration for a period of up to 90 days.

The draft Code includes measures dealing with Accountability and Transparency, Confidentiality; Gifts and Benefits: "no Member shall directly or indirectly solicit any gift or accept/receive a fee, advance, cash, gift, or personal benefit which may be tied or inferred to be tied directly or indirectly to their position or the performance of his/her duties of office unless permitted by the exceptions listed below."

However, there are 11 exceptions including "sponsorships and donations for community events or initiatives organized or run by a member or a third party on behalf of a Member where Council has authorized or endorsed the event or initiative;" and "food and beverages consumed at banquets, receptions, or similar events, if: (i) attendance serves a legitimate business purpose; (ii) the value is reasonable and the invitations infrequent."

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