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Integrity Commissioner recommends Code of Conduct, Expense Policy for Council

Integrity Commissioner recommends Code of Conduct, Expense Policy for Council

Ottawa – The City of Ottawa’s Integrity Commissioner, Mr. Robert Marleau, has presented his recommendations for the final major pieces of City Council’s Accountability Framework. The package includes a Code of Conduct for Members of Council, a Gifts Registry, a Council Expense Policy and Community, Fundraising and Special Events Policy.

As part of the development of the draft Code of Conduct and companion policies, Mr. Marleau consulted with every Member of Council and with other integrity officials and experts. He also worked closely with the City Clerk and Solicitor and his staff in preparation of these proposals for the Joint Governance Renewal and Finance and Economic Development Committee meeting of April 25, 2013.

“The City of Ottawa is in the enviable position of putting in place an ethical framework that isn’t the result of scandal,” said Mr. Marleau. “The draft Code of Conduct and companion policies are largely based on what City Council already does, along with best practices and lessons learned from other jurisdictions. All of the pieces have been drafted to work together to enhance transparency and public trust.”

Members of Council have been disclosing their expenses monthly since January 2011 and have approved specific guidelines for this disclosure including the level of detail that must be provided for certain expenses. City Council established the Lobbyist Registry and created the office of Integrity Commissioner on July 11, 2012. At that time, the Integrity Commissioner was tasked with developing the rest of the Accountability Framework.

The four recommended policies are:

Code of Conduct for Members of Council: The recommended provisions of the Code are based on the view that elected officials make decisions with an open mind, with concern for the public good and not personal benefit, and without giving preferential treatment to family, friends and supporters. The Code emphasizes that elected officials should be seen to be open about the manner in which they perform their role as Members of Council, with proactive disclosure being an important tool to increase public trust. The proposed Code will also apply to citizen members of the Transit Commission and Built Heritage Sub-Committee with respect to City business.

Gifts Registry: It is recommended that Members disclose all gifts, benefits and hospitality received which individually exceed $200 from one source in a calendar year. Event tickets of a value exceeding $30 would also be disclosed, listing who attended with the Member or, if donated, to whom or to what organization the ticket was donated. Disclosure would be listed quarterly on Ottawa.ca.

Council Expense Policy: The proposed Council Expense Policy guides how Members of Council may spend their Constituency Services Budgets. Most of the recommendations reflect current practices and reinforce the existing rules and restrictions surrounding Corporate/Purchasing Cards, as well as a Member’s personal liability with respect to any budget overages and strengthens accounting practices based on audits in other jurisdictions. New elements recommended include adding public disclosure for all City-related business travel, establishing a 3.5% threshold for donations and prohibiting contributions to other City-funded programs and services except by Council motion.

Community, Fundraising and Special Events Policy: These recommendations create a new, formal policy to govern Member events and Members’ benevolent (charitable) activities. The proposals codify current accounting practices for specific, sponsored events and prohibit the solicitation or acceptance of donations or sponsorships from a lobbyist, or their clients or employees of the client, with active registrations in the Lobbyist Registry without pre-approval from the Integrity Commissioner. The proposals establish procedures surrounding third-party organized charitable events sponsored by a Member, and provide additional guidelines for municipal election years, while requiring the annual disclosure of sponsorships and expenses related to some specific Member-organized events.

“These are foundation policies,” emphasized Mr. Marleau. “They will be reviewed and refined on a continuous basis, along with all of the other governance practices in the City of Ottawa. A strong ethical framework is a living thing.”

The Code of Conduct report includes the complaint process established by the Integrity Commissioner and there will be no fee charged for making a complaint. Staff is recommending the Code of Conduct and companion policies take effect on July 1, 2013 to allow for an orderly transition.

The Joint Meeting of the Governance Renewal and the Finance and Economic Development Committee will consider the Integrity Commissioner’s proposal beginning at 1:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 25, 2013 in the Council Chambers. The Committee’s recommendations are expected to be considered by City Council at their May 8, 2013 meeting.