Centre Wellington rejects integrity commissioner recommendation

ELORA – Centre Wellington council has rejected a request by the integrity commissioner to alter his statement to include surnames. 

“The integrity commissioner has written to his clients and suggested that in order to balance accountability and confidentiality that council direct him to include in his statement of account the name of the member who requested the advice,” Centre Wellington clerk Kerri O’Kane said to council on Aug. 26.

“No information about what the nature of the request or the advice (will be) disclosed.”

O’Kane said municipalities must be able to verify services outlined in statements actually occurred. The statement would go to the finance department for approval and would not come before council. 

“However, they are subject to any freedom of information requests,” O’Kane said. “The auditors are looking at having that accountability where the work performed can in fact be substantiated.”

Councillor Kirk McElwain asked if this impacts matters currently before the integrity commissioner or just future contact. 

“Changing the rules of the game in the middle of the game is probably not a good thing,” McElwain said. 

“If it’s something that applies to something in the future then changing the rules of the game is quite appropriate. “

O’Kane said she doesn’t think it makes a difference. 

“I know the integrity commissioner is working on items; however I do not know the nature of that so the statements of accounts could come in at any time now,” she said.  “I haven’t actually received anything in 2019. I’m not sure we’re changing anything in the middle of the game.”

McElwain disagreed. 

“If somebody had submitted something to the integrity commissioner under the impression that his or her name was never going to be made public in any way and all of a sudden it could be found out by anybody through a request for information, that is changing the rules … in the middle of the game,” he said. 

However, O’Kane said the integrity commissioner is confident nothing confidential is being disclosed. 

The request was defeated in a 3-3 vote. Meeting chair Stephen VanLeeuwen (Mayor Kelly Linton was absent) and councillors Ian MacRae and Neil Dunsmore voted in favour of the request while councillors Stephen Kitras, Bob Foster and McElwain were opposed. 

“I feel like we’re calling into question the billing integrity of the integrity commissioner and that by definition is quite absurd in my view,” Foster said. 

“If we cannot trust the billing of our integrity commissioner then we don’t have the right integrity commissioner. 

“I do think it’s important that any time advice is sought from the commissioner that it be held in strict confidence.”

O’Kane said she will report back to the integrity commissioner. 

“This means that we will just receive statements with no (name); we can’t be accountable to what he’s charging us for,” VanLeeuwen said.

O’Kane confirmed that was the case, noting, “The auditors may in fact have a problem with that.”

She said staff may consult with the commissioner on an alternative reporting method.