Minority of Nanaimo city councillors sign code of conduct

NANAIMO – Four city councillors have committed to documents that lay out the conduct and responsibilities of civic politicians.

Only four city politicians have signed a new pledge on conduct and performance.

Nanaimo city councillors had a chance during an open meeting Monday to commit to documents outlining the conduct, performance, roles and responsibilities of civic politicians.

Only Mayor Bill McKay and councillors Ian Thorpe, Wendy Pratt and Diane Brennan made the pledge.

The declaration was the first result of a $75,000 governance review, which flagged governance flaws at city hall. The review said that significant tension, name calling and physical altercations among councillors and staff undermined any attempt at good governance.

Fifty-nine recommendations were made for improvement, including a charter that sets out council responsibility.

Documents around roles, responsibilities, conduct and potential consequences for breaches, such as bullying and improper use of influence, were adopted last year.

McKay hadn’t supported the adoption then, but said he signed the declaration because it had been the will of council and he believes in it.

Thorpe, who put council on notice about his desire for a report on the progress on governance recommendations, said he feels the charter is morally binding and extremely important.

“It’s not just about being nice and good behaviour,” he said. “It goes to how we conduct ourselves, how we conduct business as a council; it asks us to be professional and businesslike which I think the public expect and want.”

Other councillors, however, disagree with the need to sign a declaration, pointing out they’ve already made an Oath of Office.

Coun. Gord Fuller described the documents, which include the role of a councillor and mayor, as “very group-hug dialogue” and “nicey-nicey.”

“I said this to the press before, I don’t have to like anybody on council, but I have to work with them and that I am willing to do,” he said.

And when he makes mistakes, he said he’ll work to correct them, but he doesn’t need a document to tell him what he needs to do.

Coun. Jim Kipp, who  refused to sign, said his actions will be judged by the people who vote him in, and Coun. Bill Bestwick said he’ll continue to perform the functions he was voted to represent “as best as I can,” with or without the signing of the document.

The declaration included a commitment to the roles of a councillor, or mayor, council charter and council-staff relations protocol.

It does not include items from a draft procedure bylaw proposed last year, which included a 10-minute block at the beginning of council meetings for people to comment on the agenda, media-only question periods and two-minute speaking restrictions.

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