Kamloops council adopts code of conduct, but what happens if it's broken is unclear | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kamloops council adopts code of conduct, but what happens if it's broken is unclear

Kamloops city council votes unanimously to approve two more cannabis stores on Dec. 18, 2018.

Elected leaders at Kamloops City Hall will now "use caution" in reporting decisions at council before the City released its own formal communication.

That's according to the new code of conduct adopted at Tuesday's council meeting after a lengthy debate.

"It is not the role of individual council members to report directly on City-related business," the policy reads.

The policy is largely modelled after other municipalities in the province, but it was written in anticipation of a provincial bill that's expected to require it of municipal governments.

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It's expected to come into effect for municipalities within six months after the fall municipal elections, but the City of Kamloops is getting ahead of the legislation by bringing in its own code of conduct now.

"We've had our time," Coun. Singh said at the June 29 council meeting. "What we're doing now is setting up a framework for the next council."

He was one of a few councillors to question how vague and broad the policy is.

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Corporate officer Natalie Garbay said the policy was intentionally written broadly in order to paint a "wide stroke" on how councillors should conduct themselves.

Under the new policy, councillors are instructed not to report information or make statements that may "reflect negatively" on staff or council members.

If a councillor obtains information they intend to use in a debate, that should now be provided to all other councillors and the chief administrative officer "as soon as possible."

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"One of the great things about municipal councils is that we bring together diverse voices and we're representing a range of community perspectives. To me this is the exact opposite of that. This is penalizing," Coun. Denis Walsh said.

He was concerned that the policy places too many rules on how elected officials should speak and work with their colleagues, hampering them from speaking out on their own opinions or concerns.

"There's no direction at the end of it as to how we deal with this... So we become the judge and jury of our own colleagues," he said.

It was adopted in a 7-2 vote, with Singh and Walsh against the new policy.

The new policies could restrict information that councillors should report publicly, but some of those are already included in other confidentiality bylaws.

Much of the new policy is instead human resources-related.

Coun. Sadie Hunter briefly mentioned bullying and harassment on council during her mayoral candidacy announcement.

Although she wouldn't share details, Hunter said it's something many elected officials in B.C. experience, not just in Kamloops.

As for whether the code of conduct could be overly controlling, or "authoritative," as Walsh called it, she disagreed.

"Most code of conduct policies in any workplace are written the same way," she said. "Largely, it was built on existing policies elsewhere."

The policy can still be overhauled once the new council is elected this fall.

As B.C. municipalities wait for the province to finalize Bill 26, it's unclear what discipline an elected official would face if they were to break the code of conduct policy.

The Kamloops code of conduct policy can be found here.

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