New Brunswick

Moncton wants integrity commissioner to police council conduct

The City of Moncton is considering creating an integrity commissioner position tasked with probing allegations of improper behaviour by city councillors.

Role would assess, investigate complaints from public, staff and fellow councillors

An integrity commissioner would investigate allegations from the public, city staff and council members of breaches of the city council code of conduct. (Shane Magee/CBC)

The City of Moncton is considering creating an integrity commissioner position tasked with probing allegations of improper behaviour by city councillors.

The role would be a third-party investigator for complaints from the public, city staff or fellow councillors that allege violations of council's code of conduct.

Councillors at a committee meeting Monday gave preliminary approval for staff to issue a request for proposals. The document calls for a private contractor that would be kept on retainer to use when needed. It still requires council approval. 

The commissioner would be tasked with assessing allegations, investigating and recommending corrective measures or penalties. 

"I think it's important that, in the event that someone crosses some particular line in a serious way, [that person] has an opportunity to make their case or complaint and would have a fair and impartial arbiter to mediate any particular issue," Coun. Blair Lawrence said in an interview. 

Nick Robichaud, Moncton's general manager of legal and legislative services, said the commissioner position may be the first at the municipal level in the Maritimes. (Shane Magee/CBC)

The concept for an integrity commissioner role arose as city staff proposed a revised council code of conduct in December. 

​Nick Robichaud, Moncton's general manager of legal and legislative services, said as part of developing the code, staff examined similar rules elsewhere in the country. That review found a trend toward using a third-party investigator, he said. 

A staff report to council states legislation requires use of an integrity commissioner in Ontario. 

"As far as I know, I think we'd be one of the first in the Maritimes" to have such a position, Robichaud said Tuesday. 

Councillors Brian Hicks and Bryan Butler voted against the motion at the committee meeting. Butler said the position would only make recommendations on punishment. 

"It still goes back to city council, or would have to go back to city council, to decide what the punishment is," Butler said. "So it's no different than what we're doing now. I've been here three years in May and I don't think there's been a time when we need an integrity commissioner." 

Punishments for violating the code range from public reprimand, an apology, removal from a committee or suspension of a salary for a certain amount of time.

It's not clear yet how much such a role could cost. No amount for the position was set aside in the city's 2019 budget. If approved, it would be funded through a contingency budget line. 

Unclear what will be public

The commissioner would be required to file annual reports to city council with a summary of all investigations and recommendations. It's not clear how much from the investigations or recommendations will be made public. 

Lawrence said that would depend on the circumstances of the case. 

"I expect there might be situations where people would agree that it doesn't need to become public, that the resolution is there," he said.

If the issue is more serious and made public, Lawrence said it would ultimately be up to voters to decide whether to re-elect a council member.

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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