Although impending legislation will eventually require all Ontario municipalities to appoint an integrity commissioner, the Town of Smiths Falls doesn’t want to wait that long.
The appointment of an integrity commissioner is one of a number of changes that will be required under Bill 68, a provincial act entitled the Modernizing Ontario’s Municipal Legislation Act. In a report to Smiths Falls council’s Committee of the Whole on April 10, Town Clerk Kerry Costello said the bill has had second reading and is currently under consideration by the provincial government’s Standing Committee on Social Policy.
The legislation will also require updates to council’s code of conduct, in effect since 2004. Codes of conduct, covering such issues of conflict of interest, will become mandatory for all Ontario municipalities.
Costello reported that 76 per cent of Ontario municipalities have a code of conduct, while only 29 per cent have an integrity commissioner.
An integrity commissioner is a “neutral, independent officer” appointed by the town to encourage and oversee compliance with the code of conduct.
Councillor Chris Cummings said it would be an advantage to have a commissioner to deal with complaints from the public. “It takes it out of the purview of council,” he said. “I would like to see something in the next 30 days.”
“I think it would make everyone’s life much easier,” said Councillor Dawn Quinn.
Costello said it would be up to council to decide what qualifications the integrity commissioner should have. Councillor Jay Brennan said an integrity commissioner would normally be a lawyer or a retired judge.
Costello said she would begin working on “a game plan and a timeframe” for the appointment of an integrity commissioner as soon as possible. Options to be examined will include a group of local municipalities sharing the services of a single integrity commissioner.