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Calgary councillors to mull code of conduct changes

The City of Calgary’s Code of Conduct for Elected Officials is getting a facelift, but councillors want more time to review potential changes.

City of Calgary ethics adviser Emily Laidlaw went over the changes during the city’s executive committee meeting Thursday. Committee members decided that more time was needed to review the changes. The matter was ultimately postponed until the new year.

Laidlaw, along with the city’s integrity commissioner Ellen-Anne O’Donnell authored the 33 changes in a required revamp of the policy. Council first adopted the policy in 2018 and a review is required every four years.

Many changes were cosmetic in nature, with clarifications to keep it in line with update practices and legal statutes. (Full list of changes in document below.)

“They are mostly amendments to clarify what current practices are in the office,” Laidlaw said.

One of the new provisions allows the Integrity Commissioner to initiate an investigation if there are reasonable grounds to do so. Laidlaw had described a situation where a complainant may not want to be identified. In those cases, the prior rules prevented the complaint from moving forward.

The changes allow the Integrity Commissioner, with their discretion, can continue that investigation. It also allows the commissioner to initiate an investigation without complaint.

“Some other integrity commissioners have this power, privacy commissioners have this power,” Laidlaw said.  

“This is almost for the same matter I just discussed which is if the Integrity Commissioner is aware of a matter that should be investigated and has not received a complaint, this enables them to proceed.”

Informal resolution reporting

Earlier this year, councillors – and the public – were made aware of an informal resolution involving Coun. Sean Chu. Chu admitted to photographing the mayor’s license plate in an executive parking garage. That photo was later circulated in the public.

No details were provided on the offense. It also would not have been made public had the mayor not raised it as a part of a requested change to the deputy mayor’s roster.  Chu was also told to take ethics training and delivered an apology in council.

Ward 11 Coun. Kourtney Penner asked about the reporting of informal resolutions.

“Currently, there is no recording of the formal resolutions,” Laidlaw responded.

Laidlaw said it could be added in. Some cities provide a summary of those cases, others provide a full reporting. Though, Laidlaw said there was some risk in publishing the dismissals. They were only required to report on a violation.

Later, Coun. Penner said that given that you don’t have an Integrity Commissioner “for life,” creating a system around consistent reporting was important.

She suggested that it be included as an appendix to the annual report from the integrity office.

“What we want to deliver to the public by way of communication, either be it sanctions, either be it, just the number of cases that are looked at, I think it’s important to have that conversation, that number,” she said.

“Having something more formalized gives consistency year over year.”

The item will come back with any potential revisions and further discussions in January.