The City of Yellowknife has introduced a raft of measures designed to ensure transparency and fairness at City Hall.
On Monday – in their last scheduled council meeting before October’s election – councillors adopted a complaints policy and enacted a code of ethics, while moving to appoint an integrity commissioner.
The complaints policy allows residents to raise issues about City programs, facilities, services, or employees, although it doesn’t handle general criticisms or complaints made anonymously.
The policy provides a standardized form to fill out when registering a complaint, and sets out the process by which the City responds: who receives the complaint, the time they have to respond, and next steps.
While the complaints policy does not apply to council members, a new code of ethics introduced in a bylaw governs how councillors conduct themselves.
The code of ethics outlines expectations of councillors when it comes to representing the City, talking to media or residents, handling confidential matters, making decisions, adhering to policies, and conducting election campaigns.
The bylaw also sets out how real or apparent conflicts of interest should be handled, and outlines informal and formal complaints processes if someone believes a councillor has contravened the code of ethics.
Complaints about councillors regarding the code of ethics will fall under the authority of a new integrity commissioner, the first to be appointed by the City.
Local law firm Dragon Toner is set to take on the role for an initial five-year period following a recent request for proposals.
The commissioner is an independent adjudicator who, alongside investigating complaints against councillors, can advise council members on ethics, provide training, and review relevant policies.
The City has budgeted $30,000 as an annual retainer for the commissioner, with an additional hourly rate for work on specific issues.
On Monday, some councillors raised concerns with the proposed code of ethics as it reached its final reading before becoming a bylaw.
Adrian Bell and Niels Konge expressed reservations about the clarity of the bylaw, Konge arguing the code of ethics requires councillors to abide by policies they sometimes have not seen.
Konge said not all policies and procedures on the City’s books had been made available to councillors, though he added that had slowly changed under the leadership of senior administrative officer Sheila Bassi-Kellett.
“I actually have a huge problem with how [the code] is written right now,” he said, “mostly because – what am I agreeing to? I dunno.
“Somebody could pull a policy that was made 24 years ago and say, ‘Hey, you’re not following the policy.’ A policy we have never seen. And that gives me great pause for the wording of this.”
However, a motion to amend the bylaw’s wording failed.