Examining The City of Mississauga’s Council Code of Conduct. (Part 10) Conduct Respecting Staff and the HUGE hidey-hole loophole.
January 19th, 2012
Examining The City of Mississauga’s Council Code of Conduct. (Part 1) Line by line, word by word. Pages 1 through 5 of the Code.
Examining The City of Mississauga’s Council Code of Conduct. (Part 4) “providing persons…with an understanding and appreciation of the City of Mississauga or the workings of its municipal government” Pages 11 through 13 of the Code.
Examining The City of Mississauga’s Council Code of Conduct. (Part 5) WTF?! “information deemed to be ‘personal information’ under the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act”?! Pages 14 through 15 of the Code.
Examining The City of Mississauga’s Council Code of Conduct. (Part 7) Improper Use of Influence and Business Relations. Pages 19 through 20 of the Code.
Again, for the record, my goal is to go through The City of Mississauga Code of Conduct, line by line, word by word as preparation for future Council deputations. Once again, I will cut-and-paste the City of Mississauga Code of Conduct directly into this blog entry and offer comment/criticism [bold italics square brackets] when the need arises. Those interested in accessing the full version of City of Mississauga Council Code of Conduct April 2011 please click here.
Council Code of Conduct April, 2011 (Page 25 begins)
Rule No. 13
Conduct Respecting Staff:
1. No Member shall compel staff to engage in partisan political activities or be subjected to threats or discrimination for refusing to engage in such activities.
[Interesting wording, “No Member shall compel staff to engage in partisan political activities” Item 1 seems to suggest that staff are free to engage in partisan political activities provided it’s of their free will and choosing. Back to Page 25 of the Code.]
2. No Member shall use, or attempt to use, their authority for the purpose of intimidating, threatening, coercing, commanding or influencing any staff member with the intent of interfering in staff’s duties, including the duty to disclose improper activity.
[“duty to disclose improper activity”? Another City expectation that I’ve videotaped staff failing to comply with. Oh well… Back to Page 25 of the Code.]
3. Members shall be respectful of the role of staff to advise based on political neutrality and objectivity and without undue influence from any individual Member or faction of the Council.
[How do politically partisan staff (who are confirmed to exist at the City) “advise based on political neutrality”? Back to Page 25 of the Code.]
4. No Member shall maliciously or falsely impugn or injure the professional or ethical reputation or the prospects or practice of staff, and all Members shall show respect for the professional capacities of the staff of the City.
[Interesting how there’s no provision in the Council Code of Conduct that states, “No Member shall maliciously or falsely impugn or injure the professional or ethical reputation of members of the public…” Back to Page 25 of the Code.]
Under the direction of the City Manager, staff serve the Council as a whole, and the combined interests of all Members as evidenced through the decisions of Council. Only Council as a whole has the authority to approve budget, policy, committee processes and other matters. Accordingly, Members shall direct requests outside of Council-approved budget, process or policy, to the Budget Committee or directly to Council.
In practical terms, there are distinct and specialized roles carried out by Council as a whole and by Councillors when performing their other roles. The key requirements of these roles include dealing with constituents and the general public, participating as standing committee members and as chairs of standing committees, and participating as Council representatives on agencies, boards, commissions and other bodies. Similarly, there are distinct and specialized roles expected of City staff in both the carrying out of their responsibilities and in dealing with the Council. Staff are expected to provide information to Members that they are entitled to. City staff are accountable to the City Manager who is accountable to City Council. Sometimes the line between staff duties and activities that are political in nature is not clear. Members of Council must respect the difference between the two in making requests of staff.
[First, regarding the statement, “Staff are expected to provide information to Members that they are entitled to” —I’m reminded immediately of several Corporate reports that were fudged, with information completely withheld.
As for the statement, “City staff are accountable to the City Manager who is accountable to City Council”, here’s what Mayor Hazel McCallion wrote in a December 20, 2006 email:
“It is true that City staff are not directly accountable to the citizens, since City staff are not elected. However, City Council is accountable to Mississauga residents for the actions of City staff.”
I believed what the Mayor wrote me right up until I read the Code and its “City staff are accountable to the City Manager who is accountable to City Council”. Certainly, the Mayor chose to make me believe that City Council was accountable for the actions of City staff.
It’s only five years afterwards do I now realize, thanks to the Code, that the Mayor/Councillors are not free to hold staff accountable. The City Manager does that. (Or doesn’t.)
This window-dressing accountability trail was a major revelation inside the Code. It explains why City staff so often fail to comply to Corporate polices, procedures, guidelines, by-laws and even provincial legislation. Elected officials can’t investigate Staff directly! Back to Page 25 of the Code.]
Members of Council should expect a high quality of advice from staff based on political neutrality and objectivity irrespective of party politics, the loyalty of persons in power, or their personal opinions.
[Seriously. Does anyone believe that?! Time and time again, it’s been proven that the only consistently “high quality of advice from staff” comes from Mary Ellen Bench, the City Solicitor and that’s it! Back to Page 25 of the Code.]
The City’s Respectful Workplace policy applies to Members of Council. Staff and Members of Council are all entitled to be treated with respect and dignity in the workplace
[“Staff and Members of Council are all entitled to be treated with respect” —no matter how often they lie, deny and/or stonewall to those they profess to serve. Back to Page 25 of the Code.]
END OF PAGE 25 OF THE CODE. PAGE 26 BEGINS
5. It is inappropriate for a Member to attempt to influence staff to circumvent normal processes in a matter, or overlook deficiencies in a file or application. It is also inappropriate for Members to involve themselves in matters of administration or departmental management which fall within the jurisdiction of the City Manager. Any such attempts should be reported to the Integrity Commissioner.
[Item 5’s second sentence, “It is also inappropriate for Members to involve themselves in matters of administration or departmental management which fall within the jurisdiction of the City Manager.” explains why neither the Mayor or any of her Councillors bothered to read a single document that I offered them through Freedom of Information. There was never any point because the Mayor and Councillors do not monitor/discipline staff!
When you add the next sentence, “Any such attempts should be reported to the Integrity Commissioner.” then Rule No. 13’s Item 5 imposes an impenetrable barrier between City staff and Elected Officials so inclined to hold them accountable.
In Rule 12 Item 2 of the Code, we saw how Mayor/Councillors are protected from an investigation by the Integrity Commissioner:
2. Upon receipt of a complaint that relates to the City’s Respectful Workplace policy and involves a Member, the Integrity Commissioner shall forward the information subject to the complaint to Human Resources who will refer it for an independent investigation.
Meaning City Staff in Human Resources will conduct an”independent investigation” of the Mayor/Councillors and, according to the Code, “will provide guidance to an independent investigator” and of course, select that “independent investigator”. Thus City of Mississauga Elected Officials neatly avoid the Integrity Commissioner conducting an investigation.
While Rule 12 points out that, “Upon receipt of the findings of the independent investigator, the Integrity Commissioner shall make a determination on the application of this Code of Conduct and the merits of the investigation”, seriously, how is that possible without conducting an investigation of the “independent investigator”? (City of Mississauga hires retired staff as “consultants”. Or as Mayor McCallion observed at the January 23, 2012 Good Governance committee meeting, “defeated politicians” morph into “consultants” .)
It’s all perfectly circular: the Code’s Rule 12 ensures that the City’s Human Resources staff protect Mayor and Councillors from an investigation by the Integrity Commissioner and Rule 13 protects all City staff from any Mayor or Councillor who might want to hold an employee accountable.
I wonder how many other Ontario municipal Council codes of conduct are this slick with illusion and window dressing….
Like the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, the City of Mississauga Code of Conduct has huge hidey-holes in just the right places to create the illusion that the HMS MYTHissauga should spring fewer leaks “going forward”.
END OF PAGE 26 OF THE CODE.
“To regain her power, expect McCallion to essentially build Team Hazel, for next year’s election. Team Hazel would consist of four sitting councillors and seven candidates hand-selected by the Hurricane, who back the mayor.”
—Ted Woloshyn, Toronto Sun