Lantzville councillors are looking at adopting a bylaw that tells them how to behave.
During a meeting on Dec. 10, Lantzville councillors discussed a proposed code of conduct bylaw, which if adopted, would provide a framework for how councillors are to behave at meetings, with staff members and on social media. The bylaw provides rules around how councillors are to deal with conflict of interest situations and how to handle confidential information. It also establishes a complaint process for councillors in the event that they wish to complain about another member of council who they feel is violating the bylaw or behaving poorly.
Coun. Will Geselbracht told councillors he was supportive of the proposed bylaw and believes Lantzville council should have had it years ago.
“If we had this code of conduct three years ago it would have been a lot easier life,” he said. “We wouldn’t have been having five-hour meetings.”
While Geselbracht said he doesn’t think the current council will need to turn to the bylaw because he believes everyone is civil and respectful toward each other, he does feel it is an important bylaw to have.
“It adds a very important aspect of respect. Respect and civility not only among ourselves but to staff,” he said. “It provides a mechanism that if people do not abide by the code of conduct and its many provisions, there is a mechanism for basically sanctioning, specifically members of council.”
Coun. Karen Proctor said she was also supportive of the proposed bylaw, calling it “very well-written.” She said it is important for councillors to be respectful toward each other and staff.
“I think that is very important for us to treat each other with respect and decorum as members of the council in order to move items forward and if we disagree with each other we can disagree using proper manners and decorum and this bylaw outlines what that would be,” Proctor said, adding that she doesn’t think it will need to be used with the current council.
Lantzville Mayor Mark Swain said he liked the bylaw, especially elements that allow members of council to request the district’s chief administrative officer obtain a legal opinion when there is a concern about real or perceived conflict of interest.
“The great thing about this is that helps members of this council, basically, deal with any potential conflicts without having to shell the money out of their own pocket, which is a costly endeavour because it can run in the neighbourhood of $1,000 for a legal opinion just to find out whether you’re in conflict,” he said.
Swain said he was also pleased to see that the bylaw touched on social media use by members of council, which he felt was something that previous Lantzville councils have struggled with. However, Swain did express concerns about the formal complaint process, calling it a bit of a “grey” area within the bylaw.
“It doesn’t really say where this is going to take place. Is this going to be in an in-camera item or out-of-camera item?” he asked. “Is a member of council going to essentially bring a motion forward outlining their complaint with another member of council if they feel that their issue has not been resolved through the informal process?”
In the end, councillors elected to defer voting the bylaw to the Jan. 14 meeting because Coun. Jamie Wilson was not in attendance.