Renfrew Ontario Council meets the town’s Integrity Commissioner
Mayor Tom Sidney and four of the five new town councillors met the town’s Integrity Commissioner who provided a general overview of his role and how the role has grown from a seldom used resource to a major factor in the daily operations of some local governments.
Tony Fleming explained the province required all municipalities to have a Code of Conduct in place beginning in 2019. As a result of the policy, each municipality was required to appoint an Integrity Commissioner (IC) to provide advice to council or perform an investigation if a complaint is made against elected officials or staff.
“An Integrity Commissioner performs two roles in relation to a municipality,” Mr. Fleming said. “The first is specific to members of council or boards and committees and I am here to provide advice in terms of Code of Conduct or Conflict of Interest. I can provide advice ahead of a meeting to a councillor if you are unsure whether or not you should take part in a meeting or declare a conflict and remove themselves from discussing the matter.”
The second role, he explained, is an investigative role under the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act or the town’s Code of Conduct or a council-staff issue.
“Any member of the public, staff or council can bring forward a complaint alleging that a councillor has breached one of those areas,” he said. “My role is to look at the complaints and investigate to determine whether in fact there is a breach of either the Act or the Code.”
He said when he begins the investigative process, it allows him to interview witnesses, review documents and attempt to understand what the facts were around the incident in regards to the subject of the complaint.
“If there is a breach I have the ability to bring a report to council and it is presented in an open session,” he said. “The report may also contain recommendations that council may or may not act upon. If the report determines that no breach was found to have taken place, then council will receive the report as information only.”
He said in the event a breach is found, some of the recommendations may include that a penalty be incurred or that council impose sanctions.
“I don’t have any authority under the legislation to impose penalties or sanctions on any member of council and that is up to council on what they want to do,” he said. “Council has the option of accepting the report and act upon the penalties or sanctions or council can amend any recommendations. Council also has the right to reject the recommendations.”
He said he is obligated to investigate any complaints a council has improperly entered into a Closed Meeting.
“Open meetings are considered normal and council can only go into a Closed Meeting for very specific reasons,” he said. “Council can enter a Closed Session only after the rationale for the meeting is announced in public with a written explanation to accompany it.
Mr. Fleming concluded his presentation by urging councillors to get a solid understanding of their responsibilities in terms of how they conduct themselves and to contact him if they have any questions or doubts regarding potential issues of conflict.
By Bruce McIntyre, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Mar 22, 2023