City adopts new complaints measures ahead of election

by Sidney Cohen - September 28, 2018

Tensions ramped up this week as council prepared to vote on the new ethics bylaw.

The bylaw states councillors “shall respect the city as an institution, its bylaws, policies and procedures.”

Coun. Adrian Bell, who is running for mayor, said the bylaw as written could hamper council’s ability to criticize city bylaws, policies and procedures, and requested a last-minute change to the wording.

Coun. Shauna Morgan, who is seeking re-election, disagreed with Bell’s view that under the ethics bylaw a critique of city rules could be interpreted as disrespect.

Coun. Niels Konge, who is running for a third term on council, said he was reluctant to agree to respect city policies that he has never seen.

“I actually have a huge problem with how it’s written right now, mostly because, what am I agreeing to?” said Konge.

City council sat Monday for the final council meeting before the Oct. 15 election. Sidney Cohen/NNSL photo.
City council sat Monday for the final council meeting before the Oct. 15 election. Sidney Cohen/NNSL photo.

He said that slowly, under the leadership of Sheila Bassi-Kellett, the city’s senior administrative officer,  some of the policies had been made public.

However, Konge added, unless all the policies and procedures are available to council, the bylaw as written is “not a good idea.”

Mayor Mark Heyck expressed displeasure at a proposal to change the bylaw right before the vote.

“We have been dealing with this particular bylaw and the substance of it for months, if not close to a year now,” said Heyck.

The mayor did not want enactment of the bylaw delayed until after the election.

Ultimately, Bell’s motion to alter the bylaw failed by a narrow margin, with Couns. Morgan, Julian Morse, Linda Bussey, Rebecca Alty and the mayor voting it down.

City council also adopted new guidelines Monday for handling complaints against city staff and elected officials.

Councillors signed off on a complaints policy that will guide how administration handles gripes about city services and grievances against municipal employees.

They also voted to hire an integrity commissioner to investigate complaints against its own members.

The appointment of an integrity commissioner is a provision of the new Council Code of Ethics bylaw, which sets standards for the ethical behaviour of councillors and a process for investigating and penalizing breaches of those standards.

Yellowknife law firm Dragon Toner has been contracted to provide city hall with integrity commissioner services for five years.

Monday’s council meeting was the last before the Oct. 15 election.