The Office of the Integrity Commissioner
The Integrity Commissioner is a neutral, independent officer who oversees the conduct of elected and most appointed officials at the City of Toronto. The Integrity Commissioner is appointed by City Council for a fixed, non-renewable five-year term and operates independently of City Council and City Administration.
The standards of conduct expected of elected and appointed officials have been written down in legislation and other binding documents, the most important of which are the Codes of Conduct and the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act (MCIA). Members of Council and local boards (restricted definition) are required to serve the public interest by upholding the letter and spirit of these standards. Specifically, these standards of conduct require the City’s elected and appointed officials to:
- serve constituents and the public in a conscientious and diligent manner;
- act with integrity;
- avoid conflicts of interest and improper use of influence; and,
- arrange their private affairs in a way that promotes public confidence and will bear close public scrutiny.
The work of the City of Toronto is complex and elected and appointed officials are required to address multiple competing legal, ethical and political interests. When public officials need help ensuring they maintain high standards of conduct, they can turn to the Integrity Commissioner for confidential advice.
The Integrity Commissioner also conducts investigations or attempts to resolve matters when allegations arise that the standards have been breached.
The Integrity Commissioner is also responsible for providing policy advice and educational programs to Council and local boards (restricted definition) on issues of ethics and integrity.
The Integrity Commissioner is one component of the City of Toronto’s accountability framework, entrenched through Chapter 3 of the Toronto Municipal Code. The Office works alongside and in cooperation with the other accountability officers.
Valerie Jepson, Integrity Commissioner
Ms. Jepson is the Integrity Commissioner for the City of Toronto. In this role, she is responsible for overseeing the Code of Conduct for elected and appointed officials at the City of Toronto. She is responsible for raising awareness about the Code of Conduct, providing advice about meeting the standards in the Code of Conduct and carrying out investigations when allegations of misconduct are made.
Ms. Jepson previously held the position as Counsel to the Integrity Commissioner for the Province of Ontario. As Counsel, Ms. Jepson advised the Ontario Integrity Commissioner on all aspects of her mandate including the conduct of MPPs, lobbyist registration and disclosure of wrongdoing. Prior to her position with the Ontario Integrity Commissioner’s office, Ms. Jepson practiced as a litigator in the private sector for law firms in Calgary and Toronto in a variety of areas of litigation.
Ms. Jepson was awarded the 2018 Society of Ontario Adjudicators and Regulators Medal and was recognized as the University of Victoria Faculty of Law Distinguished Alumni in 2019.
Ms. Jepson is a member of the Law Society of Ontario and the Law Society of Alberta. From 2012 to 2015, Ms. Jepson taught Canadian Administrative Law in the Global Professional LLM program and the Internationally Trained Lawyers Program at the University of Toronto. Prior to becoming the Integrity Commissioner for Toronto, Ms. Jepson was an active member of the Ontario Bar Association (OBA) Public Lawyers Section and held various positions on the executive.
Toronto was the first municipality in Canada to create the position of Integrity Commissioner. The first Integrity Commissioner, David Mullan, was appointed in 2004 by Council resolution.
Shortly after the Office was created, the Honourable Justice Denise E. Bellamy released her report into the Toronto Computer Leasing, and Toronto External Contract, Inquiries. This report, which has come to be known as the Bellamy Report, made more than 200 recommendations in relation to several aspects of City decision-making and administration.
The decision of City Council to create an Integrity Commissioner was commended by Justice Bellamy, but she made several recommendations to enhance the role, including that the Commissioner be full-time, that the Commissioner receive financial disclosures from municipal politicians and that the Commissioner have sufficient staff to ensure timely advice-giving and investigations. Some of the recommendations have been implemented.
In 2006, the Province of Ontario enacted the City of Toronto Act, 2006 (COTA) enshrining a number of accountability and transparency requirements in legislation. COTA requires the City of Toronto to have an Integrity Commissioner, an Ombudsman, a Lobbyist Registry and an Auditor General (known collectively as the Accountability Officers).
Inaugural Integrity Commissioner Mullan stated that 2006 was a “watershed year” in the life-span of the Office of the Integrity Commissioner because of the support and momentum created by the Bellamy Inquiry and the passage of COTA. An account of how these events impacted the trajectory of the Office can be found by reading Commissioner Mullan’s 2006 annual report.
The next organizational milestone for the Office of the Integrity Commissioner came in 2009 when City Council enacted Toronto Municipal Code: Chapter 3. Chapter 3 establishes a comprehensive governance framework for all of the Accountability Officers. It entrenches that the City’s accountability offices are independent of City Council and City Administration and puts in place safeguards to protect the independence of each office, including procedures for appointment, remuneration and administration of the office. The work leading to Chapter 3 of the Municipal Code was assisted by insight and advice of Commissioner Mullan and the City’s second Integrity Commissioner Lorne Sossin.
In 2014, the Offices of the Integrity Commissioner and the Lobbyist Registrar entered into an important memorandum of understanding about their relationship to enable both offices to ensure minimal duplication and efficient use of resources when carrying out joint or concurrent inquiries.
Acting on the recommendation of the City’s third Integrity Commissioner Janet Leiper, City Council decided to convert the position of the Integrity Commissioner from part time to full time, which was implemented upon the appointment of Integrity Commissioner Valerie Jepson in September 2014.
The Memorandum of Understanding was expanded to include all four accountability offices.
As a result of the Municipal Legislation Review undertaken in 2016 and 2017 by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, the jurisdiction of the Integrity Commissioner was expanded to include statutory authority to provide advice about the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act and to investigate allegations that the Act was contravened.
As a result of the Municipal Legislation Review, all municipalities in Ontario are now required to have an Integrity Commissioner to provide advice, deliver outreach and conduct investigations when necessary. In her 2017 Annual Report, Commissioner Jepson borrowed a phrase from Commissioner Mullan calling these changes “watershed.” She also observed that the Provincial government changes appear to recognize the success of the Toronto Integrity Commissioner model. She said, “The [new legislative changes] entrench a number of features of the Toronto model established through Chapter 3 of the Toronto Municipal Code (Accountability Officers). Starting in March 2019, the model that Toronto City Council pioneered on its own initiative in 2004 will be replicated in every municipality in Ontario. In my view, Toronto City Council should be proud that the Ontario Legislature has made mandatory many of the features that have long been in place in Toronto.”
The Integrity Commissioner carries out the following core functions:
The Integrity Commissioner provides confidential advice to the Mayor, City councillors and local board (restricted definition) appointees about their own situations respecting the applicable Code of Conduct, the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act and other by-laws and policies governing ethical behavior.
The Integrity Commissioner is responsible for providing educational programs to members of Council and their staff. This is carried out in group settings, one-on-one meetings, annual reporting and through the website of the Office of the Integrity Commissioner.
The Integrity Commissioner provides opinions and reports to City Council and local boards (restricted definition) on issues of ethics and integrity.
Complaints about breaches of the codes of conduct are made to the Integrity Commissioner pursuant to the Council-approved complaint protocols. Complaints can be dealt with through a formal or informal process. When carrying out a formal complaint investigation, the Commissioner can summons evidence and examine witnesses under oath.
Should the Integrity Commissioner find a contravention, she can recommend various penalties for imposition by Council. The available penalties range from suspension of remuneration to a reprimand or apology.
The City of Toronto has four accountability officers:
These offices are required by Part V of the City of Toronto Act, 2006 to carry out work in an independent manner.
The accountability officers work with each other through informal and formal means (e.g. the Memorandum of Understanding between the Four Accountability Offices).
The official Twitter account for the Office of the Integrity Commissioner is @TO_Integrity. The purpose of the account is to provide information to any person with interest in the work of the Office.
The Office of the Integrity Commissioner will use best efforts to deliver tweets that are relevant to those interested in the work of the Office in a direct and engaging voice. This may include news about ethics and integrity in Toronto and in other jurisdictions.
The account may follow others that may be of relevance to the work of the Office. Following another Twitter user does not imply endorsement of any kind.
The Office will take steps to remove or block a follower who tweets offensive material.
The Integrity Commissioner will not use this twitter account to tweet about specific cases or respond to requests for advice via Twitter. Complaints cannot be made using Twitter.
The Office of the Integrity Commissioner will use best efforts to update and monitor the official account from Monday to Friday. Meeting this standard may not always be possible due to limited resources and time.
Media are asked to please follow traditional contact channels to make a media request or seek additional information from our Office.
If you have questions about the Office’s Twitter use, please contact Integrity Commissioner Valerie Jepson at Valerie.Jepson@toronto.ca.
Established October 2014
The Office of the Integrity Commissioner discloses expenses for travel and hospitality, and purchases with the City PCard.
Feedback and Complaints
Office of the Integrity Commissioner
City of Toronto
375 University Ave., Suite 202
Toronto, ON M5G 2J5
Should you be dissatisfied with the service provided by the Office, please forward your concerns in writing to:
Office of the Integrity Commissioner
375 University Ave., Suite 202
Toronto, ON M5G 2J5
We make every effort to resolve complaints as quickly as possible. After contacting the Integrity Commissioner, should you remain unsatisfied with your experience, you may wish to contact Ombudsman Ontario.