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Changes coming to city’s ethics policies for employees, elected officials

Two big changes include city employees will need a valid licence to drive while on municipal business, while a “whistleblower policy” would give employees the power to reveal wrongdoing.
City hall spring 1a
City hall is located at the corner of Main Street and Fairford Street. Photo by Jason G. Antonio

Updates are coming to two municipal policies that dictate how employees should conduct themselves and how elected officials should act, while a standalone bylaw will also be created to govern individuals on city boards and committees.  

City council voted unanimously to approve an updated employee code of conduct during its Sept. 27 regular council meeting.

It also directed city administration to bring forward a standalone bylaw to address code of conduct and disclosure principles for members of committees and bylaws and create a bylaw amendment to the elected members’ code of ethics bylaw to address four areas:

  • Providing greater detail on the nature of ethical behaviours and the types of behaviours that will be monitored 
  • Expanding the complaints procedures component to address how and when an external investigation may be initiated 
  • Providing specific leave of absence provisions for a council member wishing to pursue provincial or federal politics 
  • Giving city administration the leeway to monitor additional matters that it believes council should review

Two changes in the employee code of conduct stand out.

Municipal employees operating a vehicle while on city business must have a valid driver’s licence and endorsement for their vehicle type. If their licence is revoked, suspended or becomes void, they must advise their manager/director immediately and cease operating all vehicles while on municipal business. 

Meanwhile, a “whistleblower policy” would give employees the power to reveal wrongdoing to senior management or law enforcement. 

“(The) City of Moose Jaw is committed to integrity and ethical behaviour in the workplace and will foster and maintain an environment where employees can work safely and appropriately, without fear of retaliation,” a council report said. “Employees who have knowledge of an actual or potential breach of the code shall report it in confidence through their supervisor/manager to the department head.” 

Background

City council adopted a code of ethics for elected officials and employees in 1986, and while it remains in effect, two standalone ethics bylaws have supplanted the code after the provincial government ordered changes following the controversy in the Rural Municipality of Sherwood in 2017, the report explained. 

The province specifically directed municipalities to enact an elected member code of ethics and an employee code of conduct. While city hall always had these in place, in 2017 council passed a new elected members’ code of ethics bylaw and updated the employee code of conduct, which mirrored the provincial legislation. 

There is currently no provision for how and when an elected official might take a leave of absence to pursue provincial or federal politics, the report continued. Changes to the code of ethics would also address the issue of consistently filling the interim vacancy of any council position in the future.

City administration also thought creating a standalone code of conduct bylaw for members of city boards and committees was appropriate, while it would mirror the ethical provisions of the other two bylaws and set out the relevant reporting procedures. 

Council reaction

“It is a living document, so it’s always good to make sure we are refreshing and revisiting the code of ethics,” said Coun. Crystal Froese. “I also really appreciate that we’re looking to bring a standalone one forward for our Moose Jaw committees and board members … just because they also too carry a weight on their shoulders.” 

The next regular council meeting is Tuesday, Oct. 12.