Can you describe what activities and work you have been doing since your assuming the roles of Integrity Commissioner and Lobbyist Registrar? Specifically, what work has been done to date?’
As in the case of all municipal powers and responsibilities, the positions of Integrity Commissioner and Lobbyist Registrar, and the authority of municipal councils to appoint such accountability officers, are created under statutes of the Province of Ontario.
City Council has, by By-law, appointed me as the City’s Integrity Commissioner and Lobbyist Registrar, for terms commencing on May 1, 2015.
The Performance of my Responsibilities as Integrity Commissioner
During the period following my appointment as Integrity Commissioner, I have performed the responsibilities of that office, as conferred and imposed upon me by the Provincial and Municipal legislation referred to above. In the course of carrying out my duties, I have conducted the following activities and work:
-provided information and advice to Members of City Council, relating to the provisions of the Code of Conduct and its effect on their role as Councillors;
-engaged in frequent and ongoing meetings and discussions with Councillors, and with City staff, particularly the City Clerk and the City Solicitor, relating to the exercise of the responsibilities of my office; attended at Council and committee meetings; and received information from, and met with, persons seeking information as to the application of the Code of Conduct, complaining about, or objecting to, the alleged conduct of a Member of Council, and/or requesting that I conduct an inquiry into such conduct and impose or recommend sanctions for contravention of the Code. (such latter persons I will refer to generally as “complainants”);
-interviewed complainants, Members of Council whose alleged conduct has been the subject-matter of a complaint, query or request for inquiry, arranged for interviews with witnesses and others whose knowledge or information is relevant to the matter, and reviewed documentation relating to the complaint in each case.
I have not, to date, found the need to conduct a full inquiry concerning a complaint against a Council Member.
In carrying out my responsibilities, I have considered and taken into account:
-the need to make an initial determination of whether, assuming the allegations of fact to be true, such conduct could involve contravention of the Code of Conduct;
-the need to deal with each complaint in as expeditious a manner as possible;
-the desirability of understanding, and seeking and taking into account input from parties to the complaint, and attempting to arrive at a mutually-satisfactory resolution of the complaint, if such is possible; and
-my responsibility and power to not proceed with an inquiry if the complaint is trivial, frivolous or vexatious,, does not relate to a municipal matter or interest, actually involves alleged breach of the Criminal Code, the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, the Municipal Elections Act, or other federal or provincial legislation, or where it is not in the public interest to proceed or deal further with the complaint.
How many complaints have you received since assuming your roles of Integrity Commissioner and Lobbyist Registrar, and what is the status of any such complaints?
My response is: nine specific complaints or requests for advice, and a number of additional contacts and queries.
On September 2, 2015, I provided a Report to the Council’s General Issues Committee, in which I reported that I had received three specific queries and complaints up to that time.
Since the delivery of that Report, I have dealt with six additional queries and complaints.
During the period in question, I also received, and replied to, numerous requests from Members of Council and others, for information and advice relating to the operation of the Council’s Code of Conduct and the manner in which I would or might, deal with complaints as Integrity commissioner.
At the present time, there are no pending or outstanding complaints or requests for advice under either my Integrity Commissioner or Lobbyist Registrar jurisdictions
The Establishment of the Lobbyist Registry, and the Performance of my Duties as Lobbyist Registrar
The Lobbyist Registration regime for the City of Hamilton came into force as of August 1, 2015.
“The purpose of the Lobbyist Registry is to enable individuals and businesses to register when they are going to lobby public office holders, and allows citizens to view who is communicating with City of Hamilton public office holders. Registering lobbying activities online is simple and emphasizes government accountability and transparency. In addition to its overall transparency and accessibility, the implementation of the Registry tool aligns with the City’s Values and Strategic Priorities.” (quote from the City’s News Release, July 31, 2015)
At the outset of my term as Lobbyist registrar, I drafted forms for Lobbyist Registration, Notice to the Public, and other documentation and procedures for the implementation of Council’s adoption of the lobbyist registry system.
To date, I have not yet found it necessary to undertake an inquiry or proceedings against any person for alleged contravention of the Lobbyist Registry By-law; in fact, I believe that I have received co-operation from Members of Council and lobbyists alike.
Since the coming into effect of the By-law, I have held a number of education and training sessions for Members of Council, staff, and members of the public, providing guidance and information relating to the operation of the By-law, and my administration of it as Lobbyist Registrar, as well as individual discussions with Members who have contacted me directly.
During the course of my duties, I have been in regular and continuing contact with the Program Coordinator, and other City staff, including the City Clerk and the City Solicitor and their respective staffs.
To date, there have been 31 lobbyist registrations filed with the City under the Lobbyist By-law, all of which are publicly accessible online, with particulars in each case, as required by the By-law.
The foregoing is a summary of the activities and work that I have performed as Integrity Commissioner and as Lobbyist Registrar, for the City of Hamilton, and the complaints or requests with respect to compliance with the City’s Code of Conduct for Members of Council which I have dealt with during my term in the office of Integrity Commissioner.
Is there anything else you would like Hamiltonians to know about how you have been serving their interests?
I would like to draw to the attention of Hamiltonians the fact that the City Of Hamilton, its elected municipal government, recognizes its role, and practices, as an open, transparent, accessible and accountable form of local government, to the extent possible and in accordance with the law, and encourages its citizens to understand the responsibilities of Members of Council, and the City as a whole, to comply with the words, spirit and intent of the City’s By-laws and be answerable to the public and its electorate, made more effective through the work of its Accountability Officers.
I would also draw to the attention of the public, and of City Council, the various documents that the City of Hamilton has issued, all of which are available online and from the City Clerk, outlining the steps and procedures involved in making a complaint under the City’s By-laws, and I would encourage members of the public who believe that there has been a contravention of the Code of conduct, to proceed with the making of such a complaint.
As Integrity Commissioner and Lobbyist Registrar, I regard as my highest and most important responsibilities, to educate and train the Council and the City administration, in the requirements of its accountability and transparency legislation, and to respond appropriately to every complaint and request for information, in order to implement properly the City’s By-laws, in the public interest.
I have provided a copy of this email to the City Clerk and the City Solicitor, with the request that a copy be provided to each of the Members of Council.
Integrity Commissioner and Lobbyist Registrar for the City of Hamilton
Thank-you George for engaging with Hamiltonians on The Hamiltonian . Note : The Lobbysist Registry can be searched by clicking here.