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Toronto integrity commissioner wants mayor, councillors to sign conduct pledge

Mayor Rob Ford testified in court in 2012 that he never read the handbook the city gives to members of council at the beginning of each term
May 20, 2014
By Daniel Dale

Toronto’s integrity commissioner wants incoming members of city council to sign a pledge “solemnly” declaring that they have read the official code of conduct - and won’t violate it.

Mayor Rob Ford testified in a 2012 conflict of interest trial that he had never read the handbook the city gives to members of council at the beginning of each term. Ford has breached the conduct code on several occasions.

The new pledge “will demonstrate to the public that all members are expected to know and abide by the code of conduct,” integrity commissioner Janet Leiper wrote in a report to council.

Incoming members already swear an oath in which they declare, among other things, that they will disclose conflicts and bear allegiance to the Queen. The new pledge would not come with any new penalties; code-violators are already subject to a reprimand or a temporary suspension of pay, sanctions some councillors say are inadequate for serious and serial scofflaws.

Leiper also suggested that council add an aspirational paragraph to the code to attempt to “remind” members of their obligation to behave at meetings. She wrote that she has received “ongoing complaints” from both members and residents about public decorum.

The proposed paragraph: “A member of council does best when he acts in service of the people who elect him. She strives to speak clearly and honestly. He does not attack or demonize those who complain or do not agree with him. She is careful with the people’s trust and resources. When faced with a complaint, he looks for what he can learn. She apologizes with generosity and forgives with equanimity. All members of council can set a good example for the future leaders who are among them.”

Leiper recommended a change to the code that would permit council to force a member to pay back improper gifts or donations that were not given directly to them. Ford won the conflict of interest case, on appeal, when a court ruled that council did not have the power to force Ford to reimburse lobbyists who donated to his football foundation.

The executive committee will consider the changes at its meeting on May 27. Council will make the final decision.