A code of conduct bylaw remains elusive for the District of Lantzville.
Lantzville councillors once again decided to postpone a vote on adopting a proposed code of conduct bylaw during a council meeting on Feb. 25. The bylaw, if approved, would provide a framework for how council should behave during meetings, on social media and with staff.
The bylaw would establish a complaint process for councillors who wish to to complain about a fellow councillor and sets out guidelines for how councillors should handle confidential information and deal with conflict of interest situations.
It’s the second time councillors have deferred voting on the proposed code of conduct bylaw. Councillors originally elected to postpone the vote during a Dec. 10 meeting because one council member was not in attendance. At a Jan. 14 meeting, councillors decided to defer the vote again following a recommendation from Lantzville Mayor Mark Swain, who said council would be attending a training session in February with a “local government leadership academy,” and the topic of discussion would be around council behaviour and that it would be better to vote on the bylaw following the training session.
Hours before the Feb. 25 council meeting, Coun. Ian Savage provided councillors and staff with a 13-page document detailing his concerns and objections with the proposed code of conduct bylaw. In it, Savage notes the proposed bylaw forces councillors into “tattling” on each other and argues councillors have “every right to criticize council decisions.”
One section of the proposed bylaw states that councillors must take immediate action to deal with the “publication of messages or postings by others that violate” the terms of the code of conduct. Another section states that councillors “must not demean, criticize, dispute or disrespect the decision of council.”
During Monday’s meeting, shortly before the vote was called off, Savage told councillors he was strongly opposed to the proposed bylaw and that there was “no way” he could support it because it would breach provincial and federal legislation and is “distasteful through the lens of freedom.” He said Lantzville would be better off using the Union of British Columbia Municipalities’ model for code of conduct.
“It’s much preferable for Lantzville to use the UBCM model for its council code of conduct, if one is indeed desired,” he said. “UBCM vetted its proposed code of conduct model and is very careful to state that it must conform to B.C. Canadian law. It’s the one that Nanaimo adopted, word for word.”
Savage said councillors should take the same approach Nanaimo councillors did and implement a model that mirrors UBCM’s. He also said the UBCM model also recommends that all councilors “unanimously” support a code of conduct policy or bylaw, adding that he wouldn’t support Lantzville’s proposed bylaw or adhere to it.
“We can vote for Lantzville’s new bylaw, which means one council member, me, will not support it, nor abide by it,” he said. “For example, tattling on fellow councillors or allowing myself to be told how to think, would require me to lower my high standards and I am not prepared to do that.”
Coun. Will Geselbracht said he hadn’t seen Savage’s document and immediately recommended councillors postpone voting on the code of conduct bylaw because it would allow council time to examine his concerns more carefully.
Councillors unanimously agreed and are now expected to vote on the matter at an April 15 regular council meeting.
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