Council adopts new transparency policy for members of outside boards

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Cornwall city hall

CORNWALL, Ontario - City council has adopted a new policy that forces councillors and the mayor to declare if they are members of outside agencies or boards before voting on matters related to those groups.

Councillors agreed Monday night on what many consider a conflict of interest policy that creates more openness among councillors and the public.

Some critics have suggested that councillors who are members of agencies like the Agape Centre and Heart of the City, to name just two, should at the very least make their membership known publicly, if not recusing themselves from debating and voting on motions related to those boards.

"This concept is good," said Coun. Bernadette Clement. "We should absolutely declare what boards we sit on before we debate any motions. It puts our comments in context."

But Clement had issues with just who can make complaints if they feel a city councillor is out of line. The policy was initially spelled out to include complaints from councillors only.

City clerk Helen Finn said there would be room for council to make changes to the policy and allow complaints from the pubic.

There were also some questions about who councillors could be called out by their colleagues if they contravene the policy.

Coun. Denis Thibault was vocal in his belief that he wouldn't stand for getting his "hand slapped" for ommiting to declare his membership on outside boards.

The policy wasn't without other critics. Coun. Elaine MacDonald, while in support of openness, suggested council is going too far with the policy.

"I don't think any of us sit on boards in private. We don't sneak around and hide our charitable good work," she said, adding the policy has created an air of "negativty" when it comes to sitting on outside boards. "That negative spirit is somehow, in our minds."

MacDonald added the motion could keep some council members from volunteering to serve on outside boards.

MacDonald sparked the debate concerning council members who are members of outside boards. She is a member of the Agape Centre board, but has voted around the city council table to spend money on the charitable agency.

She has argued her Agape membership is not a conflict of interest because she does not benefit personally from decisions she makes at city hall.

Organizations: Agape Centre

Geographic location: Ontario

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