The Municipality of North will review its standards of conduct policy to determine what, if any, improvements can be made to it, and staff will report the results of the review back to the newly elected council after the municipal elections in October.
Coun. Rosalie Sawrie made the successful motion for the review at the council meeting on July 20 after the municipality had received a number of complaints about the policy since it was adopted in 2018.
Sawrie said that based on these complaints, and after she administered a complaint by Mayor Al Siebring against Coun. Kate Marsh in June, she believes it’s time to review the policy based on lessons learned through these experiences to make improvements.
“Knowing that other municipalities have also been implementing their own standards of conduct policies, I believe it would be helpful to research other best practices that may be available to possibly incorporate where appropriate,” Sawrie said.
“I strongly believe that undergoing this review with current members of council and staff who have had varying experiences with the policy will allow for improvements that will make the policy more efficient and effective for newly elected members of council to adopt following the [municipal] election.”
In June, Sawrie had indicated after council decided Marsh had to apologize to council for breaching the municipality’s standards of conduct that she would consider asking for a review of the policy.
Siebring made the complaint against Marsh after a meeting last fall when she sent an email to council members that he took exception to.
After a report on Siebring’s complaint from a third-party investigator, Marsh was also told she must not communicate in a disrespectful and inflammatory manner with Siebring or other members of council, and she must attend a coaching session on respectful communication.
Although it was not recommended in the report, North Cowichan’s standard of conduct policy states that any council member who has been found by a third-party investigator to have breached the standards will face a pay cut of 10 per cent for 12 months.
At the time, some councillors took exception to the harsh penalties dictated by the standards of conduct for what they perceived as a trivial matter.
“I have to question if something of this nature really justifies all the time, effort and resources that went into this long and drawn out investigative process,” Coun. Rob Douglas said in June.
“I think we really need to reexamine this process that we set up under the standards of conduct policy four years ago.”
Coun. Christopher Justice said at the meeting on July 20 that he’s in favour of the review of the policy.
“I think what we have just went through is hugely problematic to say the least,” he said.
“I also agree with the notion that undergoing this review with current members of council and staff who have had varying experiences with the policy will allow for improvements that will make the policy more efficient.”
Siebring also said he’s in favour of the review.
“I agree there are some flaws in [the policy] that need improvement and work,” he said.