Mayor Al McDonald and former Invest North Bay president, George Burton did not violate the municipal code of conduct, according to acting Integrity Commissioner George Valin’s report published on Wednesday.
Valin was filling in for Integrity Commissioner Guy Giorno, who recused himself from the matter.
The report is regarding a complaint made by citizens Kevin Ferris and Nicole Peltier about how McDonald and Burton approved a $1.2 million contract for the company TWG Communications while sitting on Invest North Bay’s approval board, despite both of them having a prior relationship with someone at the company. McDonald did not declare a conflict of interest prior to doing so.
Ferris and Peltier’s complaint was ultimately dismissed because Valin determined there was no evidence Burton and McDonald had violated the code of conduct.
Valin’s report, however, does include recommendations for council that arose from his investigation.
One of those recommendations includes a Code of Conduct Complaint Protocol.
“Most Ontario municipalities that have adopted a code of conduct for members of council and local boards have developed a code of conduct complaint protocol. This does not appear to have been done in North Bay,” wrote Valin. “Such a protocol would be of assistance to members of council and local boards, as well as to members of the public and the Integrity Commissioner.”
Valin adds that a protocol would deal with how complaints are prepared, where they’re filed, how they’re processed, and how they are investigated by the Integrity Commissioner.
Another recommendation was to deem the Invest North Bay Development Corporation (INBDC) as a local board. “For the purpose of being subject to the Code of Conduct, I recommend that Council instruct the City Solicitor to take whatever steps are necessary to achieve that result.” reads the report.
Valin also adds that council may have some interest in amending the Code of Conduct to include a rule requiring members to avoid conflicts of interest outside of “the scope and application of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.”
Valin ends the report stating that INBDC’s Code of Interest Policy, which was adopted in February 2017, has a few shortcomings including how the policy makes no allowance for an inquiry to be started by a member of the public, nor does it provide any oversight by an outside independent person such as an Integrity Commissioner.
“The policy contains definitions of “actual conflict of interest”, “perceived conflict of interest”, and “potential conflict of interest”. While the policy requires members to disclose any actual, potential, or perceived conflicts of interest at the opening of each meeting, it only requires members to avoid actual or potential conflicts of interest. Members are not required to avoid “perceived conflicts of interest,” reads the report.
Valin ends the report saying stating “In the event the INBDC conflict of interest policy is amended to make provision for investigation of complaints by the Integrity Commissioner, then I recommend that Council assign that specific responsibility to him pursuant to the above-noted statutory provision.”
The commissioner’s report will be presented to council for them to file for “information purposes” at Monday’s meeting. It is available on the city’s website, here.