New Brunswick

Moncton councillors reject integrity commissioner to police their conduct

Moncton councillors rejected hiring a third-party investigator to serve as an integrity commissioner, a role that would police council conduct.

Moncton mayor says city staff shouldn't be investigating complaints about councillors

Moncton Mayor Dawn Arnold, right, listens to city manager Marc Landry on Monday before a vote on whether to hire a company to serve as the city's integrity commissioner. (Shane Magee/CBC)

Moncton's mayor says the city still needs a third party that can investigate complaints about city councillor conduct so that work doesn't have to be handled by municipal staff.

Councillors voted 5-5 Monday on whether to award a contract to an Ontario company to give advice about and investigate complaints under council's code of conduct. The tie meant the motion was defeated. 

The code sets out how councillors should behave with the public, staff and fellow councillors and sets out possible punishments for violations.

Mayor Dawn Arnold, who had voted in favour, told reporters she was disappointed by the result and wouldn't be surprised if the idea of an integrity commissioner role resurfaces.

"It's very tough for staff to have to discipline an elected official," Arnold said. She said provincial legislation doesn't outline how to discipline a council member who violates council's code of conduct. 

"So it's very difficult to keep people in line and have respectful behaviour," Arnold said.

She said politics in the city can be nasty but declined to provide specific examples. 

Councillors Shawn Crossman, Greg Turner, Bryan Butler, Brian Hicks and Paul Pellerin voted against the idea. The mayor and councillors Blair Lawrence, Charles Léger, Pierre Boudreau and Susan Edgett voted in favour. Councillor Paulette Thériault was absent. 

The idea of an integrity commissioner role was raised at a council meeting in December as councillors considered a new code of conduct bylaw. The code is required by provincial law. Staff suggested the code could be policed by a third party so the work isn't left to city employees.

ADR Chambers Inc., an Ontario-based company, was the highest scoring of the two companies that responded to a request for proposals. Staff recommended awarding the contract for a year, with options to extend it by two years.

Staff estimated the city would use the company for about 25 hours per year, costing between $18,000 and $20,000 annually. The company would be paid a retainer even if its services weren't used at all. 

Coun. Paul Pellerin was one of five councillors who voted against awarding the contract, saying he didn't see the need to spend the money. (Shane Magee/CBC)

Several councillors rejected the need for the position, questioned its cost and why the work would be provided to an out-of-province company.

"This is my third term on council," Pellerin said. "Even though there's been heated debates, we've always managed to respect each other at the end so I really don't see why we need an integrity commissioner." 

He said the money could be better spent elsewhere. 

Moncton councillors Bryan Butler, left, and Brian Hicks talk during Monday's council meeting. (Shane Magee/CBC)

Butler said the city needs transparency around campaign donations before an integrity commissioner. 

"The only thing we're doing is that if someone here says something to somebody and hurts their feelings, it's a possibility we could be investigated and someone come in to tell you to be more polite and not so rough around the edges and blah, blah, blah," Butler said before the vote. 

Butler was among several councillors who suggested that since the province doesn't appear to be ready to implement more transparency around campaign contributions, the city should put its own rules in place. 

Arnold said she would support greater disclosure, but it would have to apply to all candidates. She said she's not accepted more than $500 from any single contributor. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Shane Magee

Reporter

Shane Magee is a Moncton-based reporter for CBC. He can be reached at shane.magee@cbc.ca.

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