Full council debate expected around issue of integrity commissioner
London Community News
By Sean Meyer/London Community News/Twitter: Newswriter22
Councillors will have an opportunity to have their say on plans to follow through with creation of an integrity commissioner to oversee issues of accountability and transparency.
During their meeting on Tuesday (Sept. 18), councillors will have the opportunity to speak on a unanimously supported recommendation of the Finance and Administrative Services Committee to create an implementation plan for the integrity commissioner. Deputy clerk Linda Row confirmed for the finance committee the previous council had set aside $25,000 for creation of the plan.
In addition to supporting the creation of the implementation plan, councillors will also have the opportunity to discuss a committee recommendation around the establishment of rules around voluntary disclosure of private information and a potential registry for lobbyist dealing with individual councillors.
Ward 5 Councillor Joni Baechler brought forward these ideas with a strong push towards putting an integrity commissioner in place.
“I’m not proposing we hire anyone. What was recommended was we engage someone on standby, pay someone a small retainer to keep him or her in the wings. Most municipalities take that approach,” said Baechler, who added at least a dozen municipalities have integrity commissioners. “The bottom line is if we follow the rules there is no need to engage the integrity commissioner at all.”
Baechler’s idea to keep the integrity commissioner on retainer was one Ward 11 Councillor Denise Brown said wouldn’t minimize the cost the city would ultimately have to cover. “I could foresee this integrity commissioner costing us loads of money. I could see frivolous complaints going through, the invoices start to come in, and then get out of control.”
Mayor Joe Fontana agreed, saying 25-50 matters come before the integrity commissioner, whether they were complaints that would be fully investigated or not, could lead to a price tag between $300,000 and $500,000. That point was another thing the committee directed staff to address in its implementation plan.
Ward 8 Councillor Paul Hubert said he supported all three ideas Baechler brought forward, particularly because he had campaigned on the issue of integrity and accountability during both his previous election campaigns.
One thing Hubert did say needs to be cleared up would be the role of the integrity commissioner, which he said is being confused by many residents with that of the Ontario Ombudsman.
“The ombudsman, for the purpose of investigating closed door meetings; that is all he does,” Hubert said. “The integrity commissioner is something entirely different. It is more than just conflict of interest; it is the broader context of code of conduct.”
Find us on Facebook: London Community News