Better to avoid conflicts before they happen, says Mono’s integrity commissioner

March 7, 2024   ·   0 Comments


Mono council can put a face to the name of its integrity commissioner.

Guy Giorno, the town’s integrity commissioner since 2018, a lawyer in his professional life who specializes in ethics and accountability, explained his role to Mono council on Feb. 27.

It’s in that capacity, he said, that he services as the integrity commissioner for about 24 municipalities throughout Ontario.

Codes of conduct and the appointment of integrity commissioners are mandated by the provincial government.

Integrity commissioners are officers of each municipality, but they work independently and report to municipal councils. They’re the people to whom anybody in a municipality can report a perceived infraction of that town’s code of conduct or the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.

“I review those when received to determine if there ought to be an inquiry,” Giorno said. “That’s something that the legislation leaves to the discretion of the integrity commissioner. Where necessary, I conduct an inquiry and come to conclusions which are then presented in reports.”

He said one of the more important roles he has is to be at the request of town council to provide advice and guidance regarding conflicts of interest and the code of conduct.

“It’s better to avoid things before they happen,” he said. “It’s better to be able to get guidance first before there’s any issue of whether Municipal Conflict of Interest Act was contravened or the code of conduct was contravened.”

Consequences for municipal code of conduct infractions are up to the council to decide.

“It doesn’t have to, but it could reprimand a councillor with a formal statement of disapproval or suspend pay up to 90 days,” Giorno said. “That’s never happened in this town. It is a thing that happens in other municipalities from time to time.”

Penalties under the conflict of interest legislation are more severe and can only be imposed by a judge, he said.

“The ultimate penalty is the vacating of a seat and a bar to seeking municipal office for a period of time, which could be up to seven years,” he said.

Deputy Mayor Fred Nix said there could be some difficulty in the term “indirect conflict of interest” and then there are specific exceptions. One such exception is described as being “so remote or insignificant by its nature,” he said.

“How do you interpret that?” he said. “That’s one of the exceptions to whether or not you have an indirect conflict of interest.”

As an example: A committee in town that a councillor helped establish years ago asks for a municipal donation. That councillor isn’t involved with the committee anymore, but is that councillor in an indirect conflict?

Giorno said it’s important to distinguish between a local board or committee of the municipality or not. Then it has to be determined if the entity, the committee or board, will have a pecuniary interest, if the councillor or relative is a member of that body, and if there’s a benefit that can be influenced.

“One question that does arise is who makes the determination that one has a conflict?” Mayor John Creelman said. “I’ve always taken the position that it is up to the individual members and they must do their due diligence to come to that determination.”

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