Accountability and Transparency for Elected Officials and Advisory Committee, Board and Task Force Members

The City of St. Catharines is committed to transparency and ensuring all residents are aware and informed of the expectations of elected officials and individuals appointed to serve on the City's advisory committees, boards and task forces.

Page updated November 2019. 

Integrity Commissioner

 

The City's Integrity Commissioner is John Mascarin. The Integrity Commissioner is an independent and impartial position that is appointed by, and reports directly to, City Council. The City's Integrity Commissioner is responsible for the following:

  • Advising City Council members and members of the City's local boards of their duties under Council's Code of Conduct and the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.
  • Deciding whether to investigate complaints about Council and local board members' conduct.
  • Making recommendations if there is an investigation.
  • Conducting inquiries into alleged contraventions of certain sections of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act.
  • Providing educational information to members of Council.

The City's local boards include:

  • St. Catharines Transit Commission
  • St. Catharines Public Library
  • FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre 

Code of Conduct - Informal Complaints

 

Any individual who identifies or witnesses behaviour or activity by a Member that they believe contravenes the Code of Conduct may seek to address the prohibited behaviour or activity themselves in the following manner by following the Informal Complaint Procedure:

  • Document the incident(s) where the Member may have contravened the Code of Conduct including dates, times, locations, other persons present, and any other relevant information;
  • Advise a third party about the concerns regarding the Member’s actions;
  • Advise the Member that the behaviour or activity appears to contravene the Code of Conduct;
  • Identify to the Member the specific provision(s) of the Code of Conduct that may have been contravened;
  • Encourage the Member to acknowledge and agree to stop the prohibited behaviour or activity and to undertake to refrain from future occurrences of the prohibited behaviour or activity;
  • Request the Integrity Commissioner to assist in informal discussion of the alleged complaint with the Member in an attempt to settle or resolve the issue;
  • If applicable:
    • Confirm to the Member that his or her response is satisfactory, or
    • Advise the Member that his or her response is unsatisfactory;
  • Consider the need to pursue the matter in accordance with the Formal Complaint Procedure, or in accordance with any other applicable judicial or quasi-judicial process or complaint procedure.

With the consent of both the complaining individual and the Member, the Integrity Commissioner may participate in any informal process. The parties involved are encouraged to take advantage of the Integrity Commissioner’s potential role as a mediator / conciliator of issues relating to a complaint.

Code of Conduct - Formal Complaints

 

Individuals are strongly encouraged to pursue the Informal Complaint Procedure (listed above - see "Code of Conduct - Informal Complaints") as the first means of remedying behaviour or activity of a Member who they believe violates the Code of Conduct. However, the Informal Complaint Procedure is not a precondition or a prerequisite to pursuing the Formal Complaint Procedure.

Submitting a Formal Complaint

  1. Review the City's Code of Conduct Complaint Protocol for the process on submitting a formal complaint.
  2. Download and complete our Code of Conduct Formal Complaints Form.
  3. Return the completed form to the Office of the City Clerk - St. Catharines City Hall, 50 Church Street - Third Floor.
    • You are required to pay an administration fee of $36.90 when you submit your completed code of conduct complaint form.
    • Payment must be made in the Office of the City Clerk.
    • Payment must be made when you submit your formal code of conduct complaint form.
    • The Integrity Commissioner will not open an investigation until payment of the administrative fee is received.

Municipal Conflict of Interest Act 

 

The purpose of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act is to prevent members (which includes the Mayor, Councillors and individuals serving on Advisory Committees, Boards and Task Forces) from having any involvement in consideration of any matter in which the member has any direct, indirect or deemed pecuniary interest.

The Act requires members to declare a conflict of interest for item(s) at meetings before the items are discussed. Members are also required to submit a written conflict of interest declaration form, which is read aloud to be captured for the minutes of the meeting. After making a declaration, a member cannot participate or vote on the item and cannot seek to influence the item.

  • Members are responsible for making declarations of interest
  • The Integrity Commissioner can be asked to investigate instances of conflicts of interest
  • The Office of the City Clerk maintains a registry of declared conflicts of interest

Ombudsman

The Ombudsman’s jurisdiction includes investigations of the City’s administrative functions and services.

The Ombudsman’s services are intended to be a “last resort” available when the complainant has exhausted other available complaint mechanisms and reviews available within the municipality.

The Ombudsman can make non-binding recommendations to the municipality to address concerns identified through its investigation.

Please visit the Ontario Ombudsman website for additional information on the role of the Ombudsman.

 

Closed Meetings

 

Per the Municipal Act (Section 239), meetings of Council, committees and local boards shall be open to the public. There are 11 discretionary exceptions when members may meet in closed session (also referred to as "In-Camera"). A meeting or part of a meeting may be closed to the public if the subject matter being considered is:

  1. The security of the property of the municipality or local board;
  2. Personal matters about an identifiable individual, including municipal or local board employees;
  3. A proposed or pending acquisition or disposition of land by the municipality or local board;
  4. Labour relations or employee negotiations;
  5. Litigation or potential litigation, including matters before administrative tribunals, affecting the municipality or local board;
  6. Advice that is subject to solicitor-client privilege, including communications necessary for that purpose;
  7. A matter in respect of which a council, board, committee or other body may hold a closed meeting under another Act;
  8. Information explicitly supplied in confidence to the municipality or local board by Canada, a province or territory or a Crown agency of any of them;
  9. A trade secret or scientific, technical, commercial, financial or labour relations information, supplied in confidence to the municipality or local board, which, if disclosed, could reasonably be expected to prejudice significantly the competitive position or interfere significantly with the contractual or other negotiations of a person, group of persons, or organization;
  10. A trade secret or scientific, technical, commercial or financial information that belongs to the municipality or local board and has monetary value or potential monetary value; or
  11. A position, plan, procedure, criteria or instruction to be applied to any negotiations carried on or to be carried on by or on behalf of the municipality or local board
No voting is permitted in-camera except to give direction.

 

The City's closed meeting investigator is the Ontario Ombudsman. The Ombudsman may investigate a complaint that a meeting was held in-camera improperly. Decisions improperly made in-camera may be invalid.

Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act

Any person can make a request for City records. It is a “user pay” system - requesters must pay for search time and copies. 

The Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act establishes a process for the public to gain access to records in the care and control of the City. Legal and Clerks Services is the coordinator of the process for access of municipal records.

Please visit the City's Municipal Freedom of Information Act webpage for information on the Act and requesting City records.

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