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West St. Paul council approves comprehensive Code of Conduct policy

Posted: February 15, 2018

 

West St. Paul council approves comprehensive Code of Conduct policy

 

On Feb. 13, West St. Paul council passed by Resolution 2018-082, a policy that establishes a new Code of Conduct that applies to Mayor and Council and which all members of council are required to be familiar with.

The purpose of the Code is to establish clear conduct rules for members of West St. Paul Council, so that misconduct can be avoided and so that clear standards exist against which to assess potential misconduct of those members.

The Code states that:

Public confidence and public trust are essential to good governance.

To promote public confidence and public trust, members of the Council of the RM of West St. Paul strive to govern in a fair, objective and transparent manner and in the best interests of the municipality at all times.

Members of Council of the RM of West St. Paul recognize that they hold office for the benefit of the public and that their conduct must adhere to the highest ethical standards, exceeding the minimum obligations required by law.

A written Code of Conduct demonstrates that Members of Council share a common understanding of the ethical obligations which are essential to the fair and effective operation of government.

West St. Paul Mayor Bruce Henley said the new policy replaces an older version from 2012. The new eight-page policy is much more comprehensive than its two-page predecessor, Henley said, acknowledging it reflects the serious role members of council must accept when they run for office or are elected officials.

"The previous Code of Conduct was created several years ago. We felt that we could improve on what was in place previously in terms of a Code of Conduct,” Henley said.

"We want to eliminate any opportunities where members of council can state they’re not aware of a Code of Conduct or individual members of council’s responsibilities.”

Henley said the new policy will clear up any confusion, and is designed to avoid problems previous councils have encountered when members have acted in contravention of the policy and claimed to be unaware of it.

"In order to avoid situations like we’ve had in the past where, as noted in a past Ombudsman report, a past member of council stated they, ‘weren’t aware or the area is very grey,’ this provides another mechanism that will provide the public with assurances that we take this very seriously, and so should anyone in office or running for office,” Henley said.

The new Code of Conduct operates together with and supplemental to other statutes and policies that govern the conduct of council members, including The Municipal Conflict of Interest Act; The Human Rights Code of Manitoba; The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act; the Criminal Code of Canada and RM of West St. Paul Bylaws and Protocols.

The Code includes sections on Rules of Conduct, Respectful Conduct, Gifts and Benefits, Disclosure Requirements, Use of Influence, Use of RM Staff, Resources and Property, Respect for Decision-Making Processes, Conduct Concerning Staff, Respectful Conduct and Adherence to Council Policies and Procedures.

It also contains a section that directs council to a formal complaint procedure that includes directions on where complaints should be directed, including criminal matters, conflict of interest and others.

Henley said the in depth Code represents the first time a Manitoba municipality has passed such a comprehensive policy governing municipal officials.

Council also approved by resolution the appointment of Ms. Sherri Walsh as its resource on the Code of Conduct. Walsh, a human rights lawyer, has been selected as the City of Winnipeg’s first Integrity Commissioner.