October 30, 2013

Professor appointed as Integrity Commissioner

As published in The Erin Advocate

A retired political science professor from the University of Waterloo has been appointed Integrity Commissioner for the Town of Erin.

Council has hired Robert James Williams on a $500 retainer for 2014, and $300 annually thereafter. He will charge $125 per hour (plus mileage and expenses) for any investigations or reports required in connection with council’s Code of Ethics.

Williams was recommended by CAO Kathryn Ironmonger after consultation with her professional network, and her report says the fee is “very reasonable”.

“The expenses of any investigation will be carried out as frugally as possible without impacting on the validity of the process and outcome,” said Ironmonger. “Mr. Williams has extensive knowledge of municipal administration and governance and is an excellent candidate for the position.”

Williams had also been suggested by Ironmonger as a potential consultant to help the Town with the process of setting ward boundaries, since he has been involved in numerous similar processes for other municipalities, but council decided not to attempt the creation of wards for the 2014 election.

Council previously hired John Craig as Integrity Commissioner, but only to investigate a single complaint made on July 4. His report was originally due on October 4, but council agreed to delay the deadline to November 4.

Williams was a faculty member at the University of Waterloo from 1971 until his retirement in 2006, and has since then been Professor Emeritus. He was chair of the Department of Political Science for six years, served as a member of the university senate and board of governors, was Director of the Centre for Election Studies for three years, and was a mediator in the Conflict Intervention Programme.

He was academic director of the Ontario Legislature Internship Program (1994-2003) and has served on the Region of Waterloo Municipal Elections Compliance Audit Committee since 2006. He was appointed Integrity Commissioner for the Township of Wilmot in March this year.

The Code of Ethics applies not only to council members but to members of the public who have been appointed to any municipal committees, boards or commissions.

 It set standards for members’ conduct that are in addition to existing laws, intended to instill public confidence and create a baseline for both integrity and courtesy.

The Code says: “An individual, organization or employee of the Town, member of Council, Council itself or Member of the public who has reasonable grounds to believe that a Member has breached this code may proceed with a complaint and request an investigation.”

The Commissioner is expected to check to make sure the complaint is not frivolous, and even if a formal investigation proceeds, they are encouraged to seek an informal resolution of the complaint. They are expected to provide periodic update reports to council, and make a final report within 90 days.

If the Commissioner finds that a breach of the Code has occurred, they will recommend a penalty, but council will make the decision on that. Penalties may include a reprimand, an apology, the return of money or a gift (where applicable), or a suspension of pay for up to 90 days. Removal from office is not on the list of penalties.

If the Commissioner finds “that a contravention occurred, however, the Member took all reasonable measures to prevent it, or the contravention committed was trivial or committed through inadvertence or an error in judgment made in good faith, the Integrity Commissioner shall set this out in a report to Council.”

The complete Code of Ethics document and the complaint form are available in the Town Council section of the municipal website, www.erin.ca.