CoV Code of Conduct: Decision-making processes must be transparent, subject to public scrutiny; proper records are kept, audit trails in place

City Hall at night

Vancouver City Hall: Light shines through transparent windows at night.

B.C.’s Information and Privacy Commissioner is conducting a review of the City of Vancouver’s compliance with the provincial freedom of information act.

In that context, it is also worth remembering that all elected officials, employees and  advisory bodies are covered by the CoV’s Code of Conduct, which also has something to say on the topic of transparency. CityHallWatch has compiled a list of various codes of conduct applicable in civic affairs, and we copy one part of CoV’s version below as a handy reminder for all. Bold text is for emphasis.

PURPOSE: To set minimum expectations for the behaviour of Council officials, staff and advisory body members in carrying out their functions.
SCOPE: All City staff, Council officials and advisory body members.
1.1 Integrity: Council officials, staff and advisory body members are keepers of the public trust and must uphold the highest standards of ethical behaviour. Council officials, staff, and advisory body members are expected to:
• make decisions that benefit the community;
• act lawfully and within the authorities of the Vancouver Charter; and
be free from undue influence and not act, or appear to act, in order to gain financial or other benefits for themselves, family, friends or business interests
1.2 Accountability: Council officials, staff, and advisory body members are obligated to answer for a responsibility that has been entrusted to them. They are responsible for the decisions that they make. This responsibility includes acts of commission and acts of omission. In turn, decision-making processes must be transparent and subject to public scrutiny; and proper records are kept and audit trails are in place.

DOWNLOAD THE WHOLE POLICY HERE: Policy-AE02801-CodeofConduct-2008-05-15

You can see that the spirit of the Code is clear, but specific actions could be subject to a certain degree of discretion. Whose discretion?

According to the Code:

8.2 The Mayor will consider alleged breaches to the Code of Conduct by Council officials and advisory body members, make and necessary enquiries and recommend appropriate disciplinary action to Council.

8.3 Alleged breaches in the Code of Conduct by Council officials, and advisory body officials should be reported in writing to the Mayor.

8.5 The Mayor may recommend that Council take any actions provided for in the
Code of Conduct that the Mayor considers reasonable in the circumstances.

8.6 Where Council finds that a Council member or advisory body member has
breached the Code of Conduct, Council may decide by resolution to:
• Censure the individual for misbehaviour;
• Require the individual to apologize to any person adversely affected by
the breach;
• Counsel the individual; or
• In the case of advisory body members, terminate their appointment.

8.7 Breaches of this Code by staff party to collective agreements will be handled
through existing collective agreements and arbitration processes. These
mechanisms include the ability for the City to take appropriate disciplinary
action up to and including dismissal.

8.8 Breaches of this Code by exempt staff will be handled through existing
processes, follow a duty of procedural fairness and in accordance with
existing labour jurisprudence. The General Manager of Human Resource
Services, departmental General Managers or equivalents and/or the City
Manager review alleged breaches, make any necessary inquiries and
determine appropriate disciplinary action.

8.9 Disciplinary processes for breaches of this Code by contract employees are
written into contracts on a case by case basis, and will be dealt with in
accordance with the conditions outlined therein. 

8.10 Alleged breaches in the Code of Conduct by staff or contract employees
should be reported in writing to a General Manager or equivalent.

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