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Public prohibited from filing complaints against council members under suggested new policy

The public would continue to not have the right to lodge complaints against council members under a revised Standards of Conduct policy being recommended by North Cowichan municipal staff.

The staff report going to council on Wednesday specifically states: “For clarity, the public may not submit a complaint under this Standards of Conduct policy.”

Council approved the Standards of Conduct policy in 2018, but asked for a review in July, 2022, after public release of a conduct investigation into then-councillor Kate Marsh.

The follow-up staff report says council members were interviewed about the policy and how it might be improved.

Among the suggestions:

— A refresher on the policy throughout the term should be introduced.
— More oversight from council during an investigation.
— Additional timelines within the process should be set.
— Informal settlements should be encouraged; if unsuccessful, a mediator should be brought in before an investigation occurs.
— Where possible, conduct reports should not be brought to an open meeting; do more to protect confidentiality.

Is it asking too much of our elected officials to implement a policy whereby the public could launch complaints when their conduct crosses the line?

If council approves the recommended policy, only council and committee members, and staff, could file conduct complaints. That offers the public little recourse beyond waiting four years to have their say at the ballot box.

The suggestions related to lack of openness are also troubling.

The staff recommendation urges council to adopt the revised policy pending completion of a "fulsome analysis.”

Former councillor Joyce Behnsen was the subject of a conduct complaint by an employee in 2017, but details were never released.

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— Larry Pynn, April 17, 2023


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