Implementing Codes of Conduct

Convention delegates considered ways councils and boards might effectively implement codes of conduct in a clinic Wednesday. Prince George Mayor Lyn Hall and Fraser Valley Regional District CAO Paul Gipps emphasized that the very process of developing codes of conduct helps to build cohesion and a common understanding among councils and boards.

“If you are looking at a cookie cutter approach, it will fail,” said Hall, saying that the process to develop a code should take 8 months to a year. Prince George Council signs on to their code of conduct following each election in a public ceremony, and revisits the document throughout the term as new issues arise. Hall spoke to the importance of involving senior management in the process of development.

Gipps described the process the Regional District is following in order to complete a code of conduct in advance of the 2018 local government general election. Gipps noted that the transition period provided by the election cycle provides an ideal window for the introduction of code of conduct.

Fraser Valley Regional District developed its code of conduct through the work of an Internal Affairs committee of elected board members and staff. The committee drew upon resources developed by the Working Group on Responsible Conduct (WGRC), a joint effort of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, UBCM and the Local Government Management Association.

Gipps encouraged delegates not to be daunted by the process of developing a code of conduct. “In some ways, this is simple stuff. It is about how we want to have a conversation together. We don’t want to stifle debate, but we want to manage it.” He also said the committee made sure that each measure introduced in the draft code was backstopped with references to similar standards introduced in other communities.

The panel also included Lesley Scowcroft, Manager of Policy and Legislation with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. Scowcroft led delegates through resources that have been developed by the WGRC over the past year. Scowcroft described these resources as “foundational” for codes of conduct. These resources include a set of principles describing responsible conduct; a model code of conduct and a resource guide. All resources are available on LGMA’s website.

Scowcroft also outlined the work ahead for the WGRC. Questions the working group will be exploring include how prescriptive a responsible conduct framework should be; how to keep ensure it remains meaningful; and how it fits within existing legislation.

A key aspect of the work ahead is the development of an enforcement model. The Working Group will consider how complaints handled, including who decides if a complaint is worthy of investigation; and who would undertake such an investigation.

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