Annual report details rising complaints against councillors

Of those complaints, 98 were on the same matter regarding the same councillor

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The number of complaints to the city’s integrity commissioner have climbed noticeably in the last fiscal year, but many of those complaints were about a single councillor.

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Council received an annual report from the city’s integrity commissioner and ethics advisor on Tuesday afternoon.

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Integrity commissioner Ellen-Anne O’Donnell said complaints were generally low until 2020, when numbers started to climb. There was almost a doubling in complaints from 2021 to 2022.

From May 1, 2021 to April 30, 2022, there were 228 complaints received, compared with 115 in the previous 12 months. Of those complaints, 98 were on the same matter regarding the same councillor. Those were investigated as a single complaint, but listed as distinct complaints in the report.

A majority of complaints, 196, were dismissed. Two more were withdrawn. At the end of the reporting period, six complaints had not concluded as of April 30.

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O’Donnell said she believes the complaints have climbed as more people learn about the office.

“For the most part the complaints were about social media use and statements made regarding councillors, and complaints councillors had made offensive comments in the public,” said O’Donnell.

O’Donnell said she also received complaints about the 2021 election, which was outside her jurisdiction.

Complaints are dismissed when the commissioner finds the allegation does not meet the bar of breaking the council code of conduct. O’Donnell clarified that complaints are only made public if she finds the code was broken.

Council received the results of three integrity commissioner investigations in July. Two of those three investigations involved Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra and the third involved Coun. Dan McLean, who had flouted mask requirements at a public function.

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Carra’s investigations involved comments made on social media, and his failure to disclose his financial interest in an Inglewood property.

Ethics advisor Emily Laidlaw also spoke to councillors. She said a draft interpretation bulletin on how the council code of conduct applies to social media will be coming this month. She intends to approach each councillor to go over it privately and discuss questions and concerns.

O’Donnell had some general advice for councillors based on what she had seen since taking on the role in February.

“I guess the top line message would be respect for your fellow council members is key and respect for the public and sending messages that are not individual attacks or attacks on groups,” she said. “Attacks of any type should be avoided. Those are the main types of issues that I’ve been seeing.”

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Twitter: @brodie_thomas

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