Aurora Citizen

News & Views from the Citizens of Aurora Ontario

Code of Conduct Up For Review

Posted by auroracitizen on February 5, 2011

Aurora Council have agreed to revisit the controversial Code of Conduct put in place last term. It was agreed at the same meeting where the removal of the complaint against Councillor Buck was finally removed — long past due.

However, one last attempt was made by Councillor Ballard to have it remain on the town website. He wanted to be clear there was no legal downside to removing the complaint.

Possibly, he should have considered the legal downside of having a complaint up months after it had been dealt with by 2 separate “Integrity Commissioners”. Based on the position of last Council, the complaint could have remained indefinitely unless Council decided to remove it.

Finally after Councillor Ballard was assured by the Town Solicitor that there were no legal ramifications it was passed unanimously.

Council now needs to decide whether they need a “made in Aurora” Code of conduct or whether their behaviour can be governed by their Oath of Office and guidelines under the Municipal Act. Time will tell what they decide.

What do you think?

  • Does Aurora need a Code of Conduct?
  • Did the previous Code have a positive or negative effect on Council behaviour?
  • Did the Code actually address the behaviour that so many voters in Aurora found offensive?
  • Will this Council become embroiled in the sort of personality clashes that derailed last Council’s term that prompted them to implement a Code in the first place as a hammer against certain Councillors?
  • What sorts of behaviour should be covered if a Code is put in place?

Let us know your thoughts.

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18 Responses to “Code of Conduct Up For Review”

  1. Anonymous said

    Did I hear Councillor Pirri last night raise a Code of Conduct motion against Councillor Gaertner?

    • Anonymous said

      I thought you heard councillor Pirri raise a point of privilege. It was Gaertner who used the words “code of conduct.”

    • Anonymous said

      Pirri first raised a point of privilege.

      He then said Gaertner was in contravention of the Code of Conduct (publicly criticizing staff) and that, according to the procedural bylaw, she needed to apologize or leave/be tossed out.

  2. Anonymous said

    While watching the council meeting last night and observing a certain councillor’s petulant behaviour, the words of king Henry II came to mind when he asked, about Thomas Becket, “Will no one rid me of this turbulant priest?”
    For ‘priest’ though, in my mind,I was substituting ‘councillor.’ Toying with the words made me chuckle and took my mind off the ludicrous display albeit only for a brief moment.

  3. Anonymous said

    After watching the council meeting last night and although I do not support a code of conduct, I do think that responsibility lies squarelyon the shoulders of council members to deal with the type of behaviour that was displayed last night. I am referring to the following:
    Councillor Gaertner’s insults directed at the town clerk.
    Councillor Gaertner’s hypocrisy. She has now displayed the very same behaviour that she accused Councillor Buck of last term and was complicit in targeting her through the code of conduct.
    Councillor Gaertner’s belligerance and disrespectful tone which was directed at another staff member.
    Councillor Gaernter’s lack of preparedness and understanding of agenda items. Thorough homework is part of the job and she is not doing it.
    Evidence that could draw one to the conclusion that Councillor Gaertner was reading from a script again. We already know that she has brought notes written by another, or others, to the table.
    Regurgitating items that were discussed at length and decisions made in previous meetings.
    Time wasting by asking the same question over and over again. It did not matter how many times poor Mr. Downey gave the answer, she did NOT get it and asked yet again. Does she just not listen or does she have a problem with cognitive processing?
    More hypocrisy and total lack of credibility when she tried to assure Mr.Leitch, during the minutes debacle, that she would know if or when she had moved a motion, yet later the mayor had to point out to her that she was commenting without having tabled a motion.
    No, I do not support a code of conduct but I do support the notion that all those at the council table are responsible for putting a stop to this ridiculous behaviour once and for all.
    IMO Councillor Gaertner is embarrassing and obstructive. She obviously cannot uphold the tenets of the oath of office or rules embedded in the Muncipal Act and bylaws. Despite her 7+ years of council experience, a horn she blows at every opportunity, she appears to have learned nothing. There are one or two at the table who make excuses for her dim-wittedness. Please stop, you are not acting in our best interests. We elected you to discuss, debate and decide key issues, not to support unnecessary uselessness.

    • Broderick Epps said

      Great Post.
      I have been highlighting Ms. Gaertner’s actions since the middle of last term and am not surprised by what we saw on Tuesday. There is somewhat of difference from last term where she was carefully manipulated by Mormac and let loose whenever they needed added impact. This term without Mormac to filter her behaviour we are seeing what truly is a poor excuse for a councillor. The fact remains the voters elected her.
      One part of your letter really made me chuckle “More hypocrisy and total lack of credibility when she tried to assure Mr.Leitch, during the minutes debacle, that she would know if or when she had moved a motion, yet later the mayor had to point out to her that she was commenting without having tabled a motion.”
      Let’s not forget on January 25th, she pulled the wrong item for discussion.
      This is only the tip of the iceberg. We have over three and half years more of her.

  4. Anonymous said

    If the Town continues to have a Code of Conduct, where is the IC? Because without him / her the Code of Conduct appears useless as some of you have already pointed out? Who enforces the rules?

    I can just hear some of the councilors now – if we have a Code of Conduct, why do we need an IC?

  5. Anonymous said

    I actually agree with some of RTB’s points. However I do not believe that a code of conduct is needed provided that council members abide by their sworn oath of office and come to the table as adults rather than sulky, pouting children, a posture we saw all the time in the last term.
    I think one of the biggest problems with the code of conduct is that it was designed and used as a weapon against one specific target. There were many infractions on the part of many of the members seated at the table but the code was only wielded against one member. There is no point in having anything that is only used or applied selectively. If there are to be rules, those rules apply to all. At the moment I think there have already been instances where Gaertner has broken the code.
    My vote is to press on without a code, which, I hope, will challenge council members to show that they can behave in a spirit of cooperation and respect. If, over time, that proves not to be possible, then the concept of a code could be revisited. However, if events reach that point, there has to be a very different process and not the flawed debacle that we saw last term.
    I also agree that councillors have to be responsible and informed when they come to the table. To not be prepared and informed is simply disrespectful to residents, other members and staff and should not be tolerated. It is incumbent upon all in the council chamber to monitor and address problematic patterns of behaviour and nip them in the bud early.

  6. Robert the Bruce said

    My opinions….

    •Does Aurora need a Code of Conduct?

    Yes I think it does. The council that we had last term is proof why. However, the Code of Conduct should be structured to protect the residents from the councillors. If the Code is to protect them from themselves, it is a waste. Enacting a Code of Conduct now will govern all those that are to come. Most everyone is playing nice now, but things change.

    •Did the previous Code have a positive or negative effect on Council behaviour?

    I think it had a negative effect because everything that happened was held up against the Code. The Code should be complimentary to the Municipal Act and should be just as prominent.

    •Did the Code actually address the behaviour that so many voters in Aurora found offensive?

    No it did not address the behaviour. It in fact increased the behaviour.

    •Will this Council become embroiled in the sort of personality clashes that derailed last Council’s term that prompted them to implement a Code in the first place as a hammer against certain Councillors?

    I think this council is already beginning to do this. There are already factions created that will only increase in the tactics employed. You are seeing Gaertner letters in the paper almost every week (a la Buck).

    •What sorts of behaviour should be covered if a Code is put in place

    This will get certain people at this blog upset but so be it. While I support “free speech” and the right of everyone to have their opinion aired, I am a firm believer that Council business should be conducted in Council and not the media. I do not feel that a councillor has the right to continue to harp about a topic that was discussed and voted on in Council. Debate is a two-way street. If a councillor debates a topic in Council and subsequently loses the vote, to continue to debate it on their blog is not only unproductive, it is not an honest debate. To sugar-coat the media debate as “informing the public” is not genuine.

    I think a Code of Conduct should also include certain expectations.

    For example, it is expected that members of council attend meetings. This means be there when it starts; be there when it ends. Granted people travel or are sick. But the voters of this Town expect their employees to be there when it is time to do their work.

    Councillors are expected to understand what they are talking about. If you don’t understand the Budget process; make an effort to understand it. Staff is there to help.

    Fuimus

    • Winter's comin' said

      RTB … if such a code is necessary, is it not self serving on the part of the Council to create it? Better yet, can the Council legally do so? Who enforces it?
      What I would like to see, is a mechanism to remove a dysfunctional Councillor or Council before the end of a term. … wc.

    • KA-NON said

      Yes, but wc, who determines dysfunctional? There are many who would argue that the two at the helm of last council were the most dysfunctional ones last term in the way that they manipulated things, yet they were the ones accusing another of being dysfunctional because she spoke her mind. A thing that she was elected to do!

      RTB, you are right, your statement re free speech will get a response.

      I think it is a complete non-starter to censor/muzzle elected officials. It is so completely anathema to a functioning democracy as to be fundamentally authoritarian communism. I mean, take your suggestion to it’s logical conclusion. There shall be no voice but the state’s voice. Only the state shall approve what can and cannot be said. Anyone disagreeing with the state shall be brought up on charges.

      John Stuart Mill’ “On Liberty” would make good reading for anyone seriously advocating the position that you put forward. Same goes for Orwell’s “Animal Farm”.

      Evelyn is right. If people misbehave, act inappropriately, etc., they will get tossed out next election. Well, that heppened last fall – the people have spoken. 4 years too long to have to wait to do that? Well, I guess Evelyn is right on that one too.

    • Anonymous said

      So RTB do you think that the ads and articles written by our MP’s MPP’s and Prime Minister voicing their opinion should also be banned?

      (What about Frankly Speaking or Lois brown with her piece in the auroran?)

      They too speak to defeated motions and continue debate in the papers and tv…

      that is what politics is all about.. You can speak your mind and yell it from the roof tops with all your might as long as your not doing anything criminal…

      To silence people is a slippery slope down a dark path,
      You say its not a freedom of speech issue….
      I say how can stopping someone from voicing their opinion not be a free speech issue…

    • Winter's comin' said

      … Anonymous, perhaps you are right – there is nothing to stop the rogues in any council. And the answer to my question – is our Council in a position, legally or otherwise, to develop such a code of ethics for themselves to live by? Without the power to enforce it, attempting to develop such a code now or in future is futile – a waste of time. (my charter right to say so). … wc.

    • Robert the Bruce said

      I will not be drawn into a long debate here about Buck’s blog and how her freedom of speech is threatened by my remarks.

      For those that have read my statements before, you know that I disagree with a council member publishing a letter to the editor or a blog entry about how the previous night they voted against a motion but it was carried. The councillor will cite all sorts of reasons that he/she was right and all of the others were wrong.

      Why am I against this? The time and the place for debating motions is in the council chambers during a council meeting. Debate is a back and forth event between multiple parties. When a letter to the editor or a blog posting is made, the debate becomes a one-sided affair with no opportunity for a rebuttal in kind. Before you say that the other side can post a rebuttal to the blog or write a letter, I say HORSE HOCKEY! There is no guarantee the editor wll publish it and a lesser chance the blog owner will post it. So, the “free speech” issue becomes someone on a soap-box with no real opportunity to rebut. Secondly, if a motion has been debated and passed or defeated in council, what’s the point of ranting about it on a blog or letter other than sour grapes? There are rules around re-visiting a motion, the mesasge is no longer about “free speech” or “informing”.

      I am not advocating silencing or muzzling anyone. They have a venue and time to go off as much as they like, the meeting dates are published on the Town website for those that wish to see it. For everything there is a time and a place. If you are calling me a communist, I take offence KA-NON. I am advocating honest debate in the venues that it is meant to be had.

      As far as the bird cage liners we get from the MPs and MPPs. I consider them different animals because they are usually politically motivated at a party level. They are not usually personal opinions but party lines. But if you want to compare those oranges to the apples of Aurora, have at it. I won’t.

      Like I said, I will not get into a debate about this. You all have your opinion about it, I have my own. AC asked for our opinions – “here’s your sign”.

      Fuimus

    • Anonymous said

      so you have a right to your opinion but a councilor does not…..

      I know your gonna say in the venue …

      a politicians venue is anywhere the public can hear them….

  7. Winter's comin' said

    IMO, the Council (Mayor and Councillors) took an oath of office which includes a code of personal conduct. The Citizens can expect civility amongst the players
    during their term of office. It’s recognized that discussions can become heated at times, and that’s for the Mayor to dispell. If the need for a Code of Ethics should arise in future, put the issue to a vote by the people. After all, the Council is accountable to us, the taxpayers. Set the code aside for 6 months or so, and review its need at that time. … wc.

  8. Code Shmode said

    the only code of conduct needed by this or any other council is the one written and administered by the electorate , since when is any councilor subject to some made up as you go rule book to try and stifle free speech and opinions on all and sundry that is municipal business, One need look no further than the last election to see exactly how the real code of ethics works, Swear the oath of office and get to work, the voters will determine who should stay and who should go.

  9. sharon said

    As long as Council can proceed in the civil manner they have shown so far, there is no need for further review at this time. Let the dust settle for a few months, even a year before engaging in dialogue. There are more pressing issues for council to address at the moment, issues that make a difference to Aurora, and not just to the workings of council. The integrity commis is gone, the complaint is off the website, new council is working, so there is no need to hash and rehash the arguments for Code of Conduct now.

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