Guidelines for the 2018 Municipal Election.
Councillors and their staff can benefit from previous decisions made by the Integrity Commissioner on complaints received during past elections.
These examples provide Councillors and their staff with some perspective on the kinds of decisions made by the Office of the Integrity Commissioner during elections in the past.
Issue: publication of a City Hall newsletter as “campaign-related” activity
A Councillor was alleged to have violated the Code of Conduct for Members of Council by using the resources of the City for an “election campaign or campaign-related activity” when the Fall 2006 City Hall Newsletter was in substance a document in support of the 2006 campaign for re-election as Councillor. Because staff worked on this brochure while the City was paying them and a claim was made for the costs of producing this newsletter from the Council Member’s Office Budget, Clause VII was said to have been violated.
The newsletter did not announce or illustrate an indication of the Councillor’s re-election. It was produced and distributed prior to the election. Most importantly, despite the fact that it contained an extensive list of the Councillors, the Police Services Boards and Council’s accomplishments over the previous three years, it was not directly election-related. The document in part amounted to an accounting for the Councillor’s activities over the past three years, an accounting perfectly in order in a newsletter, irrespective of whether the Councillor was running for re-election. It also contained a number of references to important developments at or affecting the City over the past few months and since the distribution of a previous newsletter. It was a legitimate use of City resources on the basis of its recent events content and a legitimate accounting of the Councillor’s previous three years as a Councillor.
Issue: election sign business and use of City of Toronto e-mail
Two complaints were filed, one by a candidate running in the 2006 Municipal Election that a Councillor violated Clause VII (“Use of City Property, Services and Other Resources”) by conducting an election sign business using City of Toronto email services.
The Councillor involved wrote a letter of apology to the Director, Council and Support Services, copied to the City Clerk, the Director, Elections and Registry Services and the Integrity Commissioner, and shared with the complainant his response to the complaint stating that he had acted improperly and regretted the oversight.
For a member of Council to create the impression in the minds of reasonable people that he or she may be running a business out of that member’s City Hall office is a serious lapse of judgment and a lack of awareness of current Council policies on such matters. It is conduct that could well lead some candidates to actually contract for the advertised services in the expectation in the event of success at the polls of future alliances with and goodwill from an influential member of Council. It was recommended in the Report to Council that Council uphold the complaint but not impose any sanctions.
Issue: frivolous allegations in an election context
A candidate alleged that a Councillor improperly used the influence of his/her office to pressure staff to remove election signs put up by opponents in the 2006 Municipal Election campaign, and placed undue pressure on members of the Toronto Police Services to lay charges against a person caught removing his/her election flyers. The complainant asserted this was contrary to the terms of one of the key statements of principle in the Preamble to the Code of Conduct. As the statements did not create stand alone Code of Conduct offences, the complaint was treated as having been brought under Clause XII of the Code of Conduct (“Conduct Respecting Staff”).
The candidate ran unsuccessfully against the Councillor in the 2006 Municipal Elections. Following the elections, he/she filed two complaints against the Councillor with respect to his/her conduct during the Election campaign. Councillors should not be called upon to answer such allegations unless the affidavit and additional material filed in support of a complaint reveal sufficient detail of the alleged course of events to provide a factual basis for the Integrity Commissioner to conclude that an investigation is warranted. Neither of the allegations met that standard. All of the assertions were based on what was heard from others and no details provided. There was no statement from the campaign worker, and email communications contained no information as to the basis on which the Councillor had used inappropriate pressure on staff. The complainant was given the opportunity to provide additional information and did not meet the deadlines provided. Therefore, the complaint was dismissed as frivolous, vexatious or not made in good faith.
Issue: conduct of an incumbent member of council on election day
A Deputy Returning Officer in the 2006 elections made a complaint against a Member of Council respecting the behaviour of that Councillor and a staff member on election day at the polling station at which the complainant was working. More specifically, the complainant asserted that the member of Council violated Clauses VII (“Election Campaign Work”), XII (“Conduct Respecting Staff”) and XIV (“Discreditable Conduct”) of the Code of Conduct.
The behaviour of an incumbent Member of Council at a polling station on election day is a matter that comes within the Municipal Elections Act, 1996, S.O. 1996, c. 32, Sch., and subject to the jurisdiction of the City Clerk as the person responsible. The City Clerk was instructed as per Clause 2(3) of Part B of the Code of Conduct Complaint Protocol to advise the complainant of this in writing.
Issue: discreditable conduct during an election
A Member of Council running for re-election complained that another Councillor violated the Code of Conduct by engaging in discreditable conduct contrary to Clause XIV of the Code of Conduct. More particularly, it is alleged that the Councillor treated the Member unfairly by asserting in a voice mail message left on a general voice mail messaging system that the Councillor was currently under police investigation.
The Councillor admitted leaving the voice mail message that gave rise to the complaint and that there was no basis for the contention that the Member was being actively investigated by police. To leave such a voice mail message on the voice mail messaging system constituted “discreditable conduct” under Clause XIV of the Code of Conduct and it was recommended to Council that it request the Councillor to make a full, unconditional written apology and if refused recommended that the Councillor be formally reprimanded.