Notes from the Cache Creek Committee of the Whole meeting on June 6. Coun. Annette Pittman was absent.
Cache Creek council has decided against developing a Code of Conduct for elected officials at this time, following a lengthy discussion about the purpose of such a code.
Municipal governments in B.C. are not required to have a Code of Conduct for elected officials, but a council may decide to adopt one. The province has previously looked at, but not yet acted on, adding development of a Code of Conduct to the Community Charter, which would legislate that municipalities without one decide within six months of an election whether to adopt one or not.
Coun. Sue Peters began the discussion by saying that while she believes in a Code of Conduct, it is too late in the term of this council to be doing one. Municipal elections take place on Oct. 15, 2022.
“We can certainly start a working paper and start ideas on it, but it’s going to take a number of meetings before it’s fleshed out. Giving suggestions or a working paper to the next council would be for more productive than trying to set up a code at this time.”
Coun. Wendy Coomber said that in previous discussion about a draft Code of Conduct, council had skipped the basic questions of why Cache Creek should have one in the first place, what it means to council, and what they hope to achieve by having one. “These are things we need to address long before we can put pen to paper and start to put the bones down.”
She added that the start of a new term of council is a good place to introduce the discussion. “Sometimes it takes a year or more to develop one of these. The province is going to impose this sooner or later, so it would be better if we came up with our own version rather than have them mail one to us and say ‘Here you go.’”
Mayor Santo Talarico said that a Code of Conduct needed to include repercussions for someone who is not behaving the way they should. “Until there’s some teeth to some legislation somewhere, it is a futile effort on everyone’s part to be wasting their time on a Code of Conduct. Some individuals will conduct themselves appropriately and others will not. When they do not, where’s the repercussion?
“If you have a councillor who is not behaving the way they should, and breaks all kinds of rules, whether it’s in camera rules or otherwise, there’s nothing you can do.”
Coomber said that there were suggested sanctions in other B.C. codes of conduct, including a letter of apology; mandatory education, training, counselling, or coaching; public censure; removal or suspension from committees; a letter of reprimand or formal warning; suspension or removal as deputy acting mayor; restrictions on representing the local government or accessing municipal facilities; limits on travel or attending conferences or events; reduction of compensation; or a written pledge promising to comply.
Chief Administrative Officer Damian Couture said that council conduct is an area where there is no legal recourse: “You can’t un-elect someone.” While some of the suggestions listed by Coomber might have an effect, he added that if they did not, “It would say something about the person.”
Peters suggested that council members consult other Codes of Conduct to see what they say, and submit their thoughts about the basic questions Coomber had asked to staff, to start the conversation. Couture said he could take those submissions and put them together to come back to council.
Council was asked to bring their information back as soon as possible so that it could be compiled for discussion at the next Committee of the Whole meeting, which will take place just before the election in October.