Gift threshold too high: Paterson

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Clearview council has adopted a code of conduct to ensure members share a common basis and understanding for acceptable conduct.

The code, developed with an appointed integrity commissioner, is required by law as of March 2019. 

The code puts in place rules around general conduct, conflict of interest, confidential information, use of township resources, elections, use of influence, business relations, communicating with media and social media use, nepotism, expenses, and gifts, benefits and hospitality. 

Just before it was adopted on July 30, Councillor Thom Paterson made a last ditch effort to have the threshold for gifts lowered but having discussed it earlier in the month, the dollar limits were left as is. 

The code places limits on acceptable gifts. Council members may not accept gifts valued at more than $300 (unless approved by the integrity commissioner), alcohol valued at over $100, art worth $300, business meals costing $300 and business hospitality valued at more than $500. It also limits the number of events a council member can be treated to (no more than two tickets per event and no more than one event by the same person or organization).

“The practical problems that nominal gifts and benefits create require a Code of Conduct that provides clarity and transparency. Personal integrity and sound business practices require that relationships with developers, vendors, contractors or others doing business with the township be such that no member of council is perceived as showing favouritism or bias toward the giver. There will never be a perfect solution,” states the integrity commissioner commentary.

Paterson said the limits are too high. 

“It’s too extravagant. In our local economy it could seem like influence,” he said… “All the influencer has to do is cause a perception.”

The code of conduct is to be reviewed at the end of each term of council and is to be amended when there is a change in relevant legislation and when otherwise appropriate. 

Training dates are in the works for appointed board and committee members, who will have a separate code of conduct.

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