A view of Surrey’s city hall, in Whalley. (File photo)

Surrey council approves bylaw to establish ethics commissioner

Councillor Brenda Locke says it’s a first for B.C., but Councillor Steven Pettigrew says bylaw is flawed

Surrey city council approved a bylaw Monday to establish an ethics commissioner who would have the authority to investigate allegations of ethical misconduct aimed at the mayor and council and then prescribe recommendations for sanction or discipline.

Rob Constanzo, the city’s general manager of corporate services, noted Surrey is the first civic government in B.C. to create an independent ethics commissioner’s office.

Councillor Steven Pettigrew was the lone member of council to vote against the bylaw, whereas the other eight landed in favour. Pettigrew said he supports the concept but argued that the bylaw in its current form is flawed.

“The process that we’re going through is a flawed process, and the way that this corporate report was created was actually created is an example of the flaws,” Pettigrew said at Monday night’s council meeting, adding this was the first time he’s seeing it.

“This is going to be a theme for me tonight, about corporate reports and how they actually interact with council and staff,” Pettigrew said. “So, as council, we do not have the opportunity to actually process this information; we get all this information to us at the last minute sit down, and some of this is quite meaty. We need to be able to discuss these things more amongst ourselves, there’s a council with staff, to have this opportunity. So there’s numerous problems that I see with this bylaw.”

For instance, he voiced concern about the way the committee struck to select a commissioner will operate.

“The way it’s written right now, there’s a lack of accountability that this committee will have to council.”

Finally, Pettigrew said, of all the power that’s delegated to the commissioner, there’s one sentence is the document that would allow the commissioner to delegate all of his or her authority to someone else, “and this someone else has not been approved by council or gone through this grueling selection process or undergone any sort of screening.”

The purpose of the Ethics Commissioner Establishment Bylaw is to create the position of an ethics commissioner and establish the terms of reference for a selection committee. Ultimately, the intent is to help members of council meet their ethical obligations.

According to the report, the commissioner will have “the power to investigate allegations of ethical misconduct in relation to Mayor and Council; to report their findings to Council; and provide recommendations to Council as to the appropriate sanction or discipline.”

The selection committee will have five voting members. There will be two members of council, three members of the public and a non-voting “legal professional.”

Councillor Brenda Locke thanked Councillor Jack Hundial for initiating it.

“This is an innovative piece of bylaw for Surrey and we will be the first in British Columbia, so that’s pretty awesome for us,” she said.

Prior to the vote, Locke said that when she was a Liberal MLA, she learned that ethics commissioners are “as much as keeping politicians out of trouble as getting them into trouble,” and asked city staff if “that’s part of the theme with this one as well.”

She was told that the ethics commissioner will educate and provide advice related to the administration of a council code of conduct, which has yet to be wrought, but at this point the bylaw merely sets out the commissioner’s basic powers and creates the roles, as required under the Community Charter.

Hundial said he would like to see the commissioner in place before a code of conduct is enacted, to help review it.

“Simply because, as this role develops, there’s a potential for having the code of conduct piece come back and have to be sort of re-evaluated,” he said.

None of the five Safe Surrey Coalition council members spoke to the bylaw.



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Tom on Twitter

ethicsSurrey

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

South Surrey boy, 11, hopes to raise $3,000 for Sources – and be Prime Minister

White Rock Coldest Night of the Year event to take place Feb. 22

Recharged Sharks aim for playoffs after ‘well-earned’ break

Bayside rugby club mixes youth with returning veterans in quest for men’s Div. 1 title

Pedestrian fatality in Surrey

Police are investigating at 183 Street and Highway 10

Police watchdog seeking witnesses to Surrey arrest

It happened in a McDonald’s parking lot in Guildford on Jan. 18, at 152nd Street and 102A Avenue, at about 1 a.m.

VIDEO: Minister reports ‘modest progress’ after blockade talks with First Nation

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say Coastal GasLink does not have authority to go through their lands

Henrique scores 2 as Ducks soar past Canucks 5-1

Vancouver tumbles out of top spot in Pacific Division

Trudeau cancels Caribbean trip amid pipeline protests across Canada

Protests against Coastal GasLink have disrupted rail service

B.C. VIEWS: Inaction on pipeline protests not a viable response

Columnist Frank Bucholtz on how the Coastal GasLink pipeline dispute got so bad

PHOTOS: Top 10 memories of the 2010 Olympics

Black Press Media’s Jenna Hauck, shares some of her most memorable images of 2010 Winter Games

#FoxForFiver: Support grows in B.C. to put Terry Fox on new $5 bill

Terry Fox’ Marathon of Hope raised money for cancer research

Registration opens soon for BC 55+ Games in Richmond

2020 55+ Games have been officially scheduled for Sept. 15 to 19

Trudeau confers with cabinet ministers as rail blockades continue

The Trudeau government has been criticized for not doing more to end the blockades

VIDEO: Vancouver Giants make it nine straight

Roman scores hat trick as team dominates Seattle

Most Read