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‘Cutting edge’ code of conduct marks last of JI recommendations

Staff code of conduct includes public gift registry detailing if and when gifts are sent to town staff
Justice Frank Marrocco was the Commissioner in the Collingwood Judicial Inquiry.

A major chapter of Collingwood’s political history is nearing closure as of this week, when the corporate and community services committee voted Monday night (Feb. 6) in favour of implementing the last remaining recommendations out of Collingwood’s Judicial Inquiry.

A Code of Conduct for staff of the town was given initial approval on Monday at the committee level, which includes changes that reflect 57 of the 306 recommendations suggested by Associate Chief Justice Frank Marrocco in his Nov. 2020 final report.

“This is our concluding report from 306 recommendations,” said town clerk Sara Almas on Monday. “This is the final piece. I'm very happy to report that.”

Of Marrocco’s 306 total recommendations, 57 of them pertain to establishing a Code of Conduct for staff.

The new staff Code of Conduct is based on the City of Vaughan’s code as a best-practise example. The code applies to all full-time and part-time employees, permanent, contract, seasonal and temporary employees, students, interns and volunteers.

The new staff Code of Conduct document includes rules regarding employee standards, stewardship, conflicts of interest, business meals, functions, oversight and reporting/investigations.

“We have added additional nuances that are specific and unique to the Town of Collingwood, such as accountability as it relates to our existing delegated authorities, procurement and lobbyist rules as well as disciplinary policies,” noted Almas in her report to councillors.

A public gift registry will also be made available moving forward on the Town of Collingwood’s website which will outline when gifts are received by town staff, who received them, who sent them, when they were sent, a description of the gift and the estimated value of gift.

The new code clarifies that staff is prohibited from accepting gifts, favours, entertainment, meals, trips, or benefits of any kind from any bidder or potential bidder in either the pre-procurement phase or during the procurement process.

“You’ll see within the policy there were a lot of things (added) like yearly sign-offs, and people acknowledging,” said Chief Administrative Officer Sonya Skinner on Monday. “It does have some teeth in it but it's about communicating to staff proactively about the expectations of a municipality.”

“This is a cutting-edge document for a municipality of our size,” Skinner added.

Collingwood’s Judicial Inquiry came to a close with a final report from the commissioner published Nov. 2, 2020.

The inquiry was called in 2018 to investigate the 50 per cent share sale of Collus electrical utility to PowerStream in 2012, and the subsequent spending of share sale proceeds on two fabric membrane structures in Collingwood. As well, the inquiry was tasked with investigating who received money as a result of the share sale and building the recreational facilities.

Morocco said he found undisclosed conflicts, unfair procurements, and a lack of transparency.

Other main changes made to town policies and procedures as a result of the inquiry report include:

  • Implementing a whistleblower policy for staff
  • A new code of conduct for Collingwood council members as well as members of committees and local boards
  • Hiring the services of an integrity commissioner who is also responsible for the role of lobbyist registrar. The inquiry recommended a registry to track all lobbying activity and a public listing of lobbyists. The town already had a lobbyist registry in place before the final recommendations were made, but has since made tweaks to the process based on the commissioner’s report. The town did pay for integrity commissioner services prior to the inquiry report being released.
  • Hiring a fairness monitor to oversee the town’s purchases.

The committee voted unanimously in favour of recommending approval of the new staff code of conduct. Mayor Yvonne Hamlin and Coun. Kathy Jeffery were absent from the meeting.

The decision will need to be ratified at council’s next regular meeting on Feb. 20 before going into effect.

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Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen is an experienced journalist working for Village Media since 2018, primarily covering Collingwood and education.
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