A council conduct bylaw is one step closer to being reality after it passed three readings at a recent council meeting.
The bylaw was revised following a meeting on April 7 Committee of the Whole meeting and brought forward at the April 21 meeting where it was eventually carried forward, opposed by Councillors Ahmed Yousef, Kiersten Duncan and Gordy Robson.
The proposed behaviour bylaw, Council Conduct Bylaw No. 7637-202, sets out standards of conduct for council and sets out how complaints of misconduct should be handled, investigated, and penalized, if deemed appropriate.
Councillor Duncan was most concerned with the formal complaint process that is spelled out in the document that was first put under scrutiny at a committee meeting in early April.
The section informs councillors how to file a formal complaint against one or more councillors who they feel are not complying with the bylaw.
It says that the complaint must be made in writing and addressed to a “complaints investigator,” a member of council or subcommittee of council, or a third party investigator – which is selected by council.
However, senior policy analyst and policy lead, Laura Benson explained that this bylaw allows council to operate as a group.
The choosing of an investigator is a decision for all of council and will depend on what the situation is, she noted.
This will give them the latitude to hire an investigator with the appropriate skills to look into a matter. Or if a matter is “cut and dry”, where a council member contravened the bylaw, didn’t realize it and apologized, then an investigator does not have to be hired.
“In that case council could be the investigator,”said Benson.
Benson also said accusations about the city taking away computers and phones given to councillors to use as a penalty for not complying with the bylaw, is not accurate.
“What the bylaw speaks to is city assets provided for convenience,” said Benson. Not laptops, tablets or phones that are being used to comply with the city’s security policy.
Councillor Duncan was disappointed that the bylaw was carried forward, saying it was “fairly unusual” for they bylaw to pass three readings in one meeting.
“The only time we typically pass something first, second and third reading is if it’s very straight forward and no controversy and it’s just an update to a bylaw,” said Duncan
“You never do that for a brand new bylaw,” she said.
“It really actually doesn’t change a whole lot in our world right now,” said City of Maple Ridge Mayor Mike Morden.
“We have an existing code of conduct which we have all signed and we have a truck load of policies that are already in place,” said Morden.
When he was first elected, Morden said, he didn’t have a full sense of the scope of the rights, obligations and the role of the councillor.
Morden spent two terms on Maple Ridge council, from 2009 to 2014, but lost when he ran for mayor in 2014.
“This now puts it all into one place,” he said.
The bylaw is expected to go to a fourth reading at a council meeting on Tuesday, May 12.