Strengthening Responsible Conduct

Over the past year, the Working Group on Responsible Conduct (WGRC) has explored ways in which the responsible conduct of local elected officials might be strengthened through potential legislative changes and new educational tools. This communique provides an update on the WGRC’s work through this period.

The WGRC is a staff level working group drawn from UBCM, the Local Government Management Association and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing. The WGRC was formed in 2016 in response to a UBCM resolution and was tasked with the undertaking of research and policy work concerning responsible conduct by local elected officials.

To date, the WGRC has made several resources available to support local government initiatives. A set of foundational principles was identified to act as a guide both for the conduct of individual elected officials and the collective behaviour of a council or board. Building on these foundational principles, the WGRC also released a model for local governments seeking to develop their own Code of Conduct and a companion guide to support implementation.

Over the past year, the WGRC has explored the potential of legislative and educational approaches to address a range of topics identified by local governments, including the challenge of enforcing a Code of Conduct and the need for resources to strengthen relationships that have been impacted by less-than-responsible conduct.

The WGRC engaged with the memberships of the UBCM and LGMA through presentations at several Area Association and Chapter meetings, and an online survey conducted in May. Based on the level of response, the feedback provided, and continued research and local experiences with the development of Codes of Conduct, there is no clear consensus about legislating mandatory codes of conduct for all local governments. However, there is a clear need expressed from both elected officials and staff for additional guidance material to support meaningful conduct discussions and resources for enforcing codes of conduct.

As a result, the WGRC has chosen to focus the next phase of its work on developing practical educational and guidance resources. The WGRC will also continue work on potential legislative change that focuses on the importance of councils and boards turning their minds to Codes of Conduct.

Recently the WGRC has compiled a list of consultants with expertise in supporting local governments that are struggling with issues of less-than-responsible conduct. This resource is available to local elected officials and senior staff facing challenging situations upon request from the three organizations participating in the WGRC. UBCM members may access this resource by contacting Gary MacIsaac, UBCM’s Executive Director.

Work is getting underway on what would be needed to develop a resource to support the enforcement of Codes of Conduct based on the tools currently available to local governments in BC. The goal would be to assist with information on important issues, such as safeguarding administrative fairness in the process of vetting complaints, investigations, determinations, and application of sanctions. Work is also getting underway on what would be needed to develop a resource aimed at the prevention of less-than-responsible conduct.

As noted, the WGRC will also explore the potential of legislative options aimed at highlighting the importance of  councils and boards turning their minds to a Code of Conduct, while upholding local government choice with respect to the decision to adopt a such a code.

UBCM members with questions or comments concerning the WGRC initiative are asked to contact Paul Taylor, Director of Communications.

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