By Catherine Thompson
June 13, 2016
KITCHENER — Kitchener will pay a Toronto firm $250 an hour to advise councillors on the municipal Code of Conduct.
Councillors voted Monday to appoint ADR Chambers, a dispute resolution firm, to provide integrity commissioner services for the next three years, replacing London, Ont., lawyer Greg Levine, who is retiring.
The move might save the city money, because it will only pay the firm for services received. Kitchener had paid Levine a retainer of $2,000 a year for the past eight years, even though it has never actually called on his services.
The integrity commissioner investigates alleged breaches of the city’s Code of Conduct, which sets out rules of acceptable conduct for members of council.
The code spells out accepted behaviour for council, and prohibits members of council from doing such things as using city property or city staff for personal purposes or as part of their re-election campaign, from threatening or intimidating city staff, and from disclosing matters dealt with in camera. It also bans close relatives of a member of council from working for the city, and requires council members to report any gifts worth $100 or more.
Councillors also asked city clerk Christine Tarling to investigate the potential for the firm to provide other services, such as advice to council members on the Code of Conduct or on conflicts of interest, or training new councillors. A report will come back later this year on what extra services the integrity commissioner could provide, what those might cost, and whether it makes sense to set an upper limit of, say $5,000, that any council member could run up in a year in seeking advice from the firm.
It might be useful to have the ability for councillors to get advice from the commissioner, said Coun. Paul Singh. “We are not legal experts. In many cases, we do need to actively seek out advice so we can take part in important decisions that define the future of our city.”
Kitchener contacted a number of other cities about their use of such commissioners; budgets ranged from $4,000 a year in Barrie to $20,000 in Markham.
Kitchener’s contract with for integrity commissioner services is a joint one with the cities of Cambridge and Waterloo. The vote at Monday’s finance committee meeting will need to be ratified at the next council meeting on June 27.