The City of Yellowknife’s integrity commissioner says an ethics complaint was handled using an informal process for the first time since he has held the role.
Lawyer Sheldon Toner, who has been the integrity commissioner since September 2018, presented his latest annual report – spanning the 12 months to September 2023 – to city councillors on Monday.
Toner said he received one potential complaint from a member of the public during that time. He said the complaint was dealt with through an informal process involving a confidential discussion between the complainant and councillor. No details of the complaint have been made public.
The integrity commissioner’s responsibilities include addressing whistleblower complaints and alleged breaches of council’s code of ethics bylaw.
“The complaints process, especially the formal part of that process, is used but used infrequently,” Toner told councillors.
“We are a relatively small municipality here, so I wouldn’t expect to see it used more extensively and I certainly don’t go out looking for work.”
Toner has, however, previously investigated conduct complaints against then-councillor Niels Konge through the formal complaint process. Yellowknife councillors agreed to censure Konge for “inappropriate” comments he made during two council discussions, one about a Covid-19 vaccination policy and another about using a downtown building as a day shelter.
In the past year, Toner said he gave newly elected councillors an overview of the integrity commissioner’s role and responsibilities, and gave informal advice to three councillors on potential conflicts of interest.
Toner said his plans for the year ahead include arranging a guest speaker for council on municipal ethics and reviewing the city’s complaints process.
He told councillors there are no “urgent issues” with the city’s code of ethics, but said City Hall should develop a conflict of interest declaration form, look into whether councillors should have immunity for statements they make in council or committees, and clarify the complaints process.
Also on Monday, councillors discussed six priority economic actions highlighted by a mayoral task force. They include finally rolling out a long-discussed hotel levy and bolstering the city’s destination marketing organization, alongside topics like how visitor centre governance and business licence revision work, speeding up housing permitting, and renewing Yellowknife’s tourism strategy.
“The emphasis on supporting the economy is even more important than we would have thought,” said city manager Sheila Bassi-Kellett, referencing the effects of this summer’s evacuation and Covid-19 on Yellowknife businesses.
“We know that, certainly, any support the city gives is very, very much welcomed, needed and appreciated by the business community,” Bassi-Kellett said.
Councillors are expected to vote on whether to accept those priorities at their next regular council meeting on November 27.