Nina Bifolchi

News – Code of Conduct Passed by Council

At a Tuesday June 23rd Council Meeting, Council approved their Code of Conduct. In a previous “newsroom” article titled “Six Month Review For Council” I commented on a change that was being proposed to the Code of Conduct.

In the past I have not had any issue with our Code of Conduct however there were a couple of new items that in my opinion were either premature or morally wrong.

In May at a General Government Committee meeting the Town’s Clerk brought forward a report for information only regarding Bill 8. This bill had a number of items for consideration including the appointment of an Integrity Commissioner. While I believe the public should have this avenue available to them it comes at a cost to the taxpayer. The Clerk advised that she would be bringing more information forward in the near future as she was still researching the position. Despite the lack of information and the sudden unexpected motion put on the floor by a council member to appoint an Integrity Commissioner, the committee chose to recommend to council to appoint an Integrity Commissioner. Our Code of Conduct would now also reflect this.

At our May 26, 2015 Council Meeting the majority of council chose to confirm the direction to staff and appoint an Integrity Commissioner. At that meeting I commented that “while I believe this council would benefit from an integrity commissioner, I believe we need all the facts, including the financial implications.” I believe it’s irresponsible to make decisions without all the facts especially if there will be a cost to our taxpayers. To date council has not received any further information or costs regarding the position of an Integrity Commissioner.

On June 9, 2015 at a Committee of the Whole Meeting another surprise motion was put on the table to amend the Code of Conduct to allow the mayor to direct any and all staff. When I asked the councillor if he could clarify what this authority would mean and if it was that the Mayor could direct any and all staff on anything, he said yes. A recorded vote was held. I did not support the motion.

At the June 23, 2015 Council meeting I asked that the motion be pulled for further discussion. My comments were as follows:

“To change our Code of Conduct to reflect that the Mayor has the authority to direct any and all staff, flies in the face of democracy and the Municipal Act.

Council provides direction to our CAO, who provides direction to Department Heads and so it goes down the chain. In the CAO’s absence he always appoints an Acting CAO to ensure that clear oversight of the organization continues. To disrupt this chain by allowing the Mayor to direct any staff at any time on anything could have serious ramifications and liability to this community and council.

Just four days prior to this discussion at Committee of the Whole this council received over four hours of training from one of the most well respected and well versed lawyers in the municipal world. He made it very clear that no one member of council including the Mayor should be directing staff.

Giving one member of council authority over any and all staff does not create more accountability or efficiencies. It’s quite the opposite.

My opposition to items such as this is not to tear this council down but rather build it up. Wasaga Beach Council is being talked about all over Simcoe County and beyond but not for the right reasons. This council is making decisions without all the information or fully understanding the consequences.

I continue to urge this council to step back and understand the policies before trying to rewrite them to suite individual desires.”

I then asked for a recorded vote. Councillor Bray and I voted against amending the Code of Conduct to allow the Mayor to direct staff. The rest of council including the Mayor voted to give himself this authority.

I have yet to hear a valid reason from anyone as to why this authority is needed by the Mayor. To the best of my knowledge the remaining 443 Ontario Municipalities don’t see the need for it either. Instead they just follow the Municipal Act.