Al Siebring wants to see a more respectful workplace for council members in North Cowichan, as well as for those who work for the municipality.
Siebring, who is a councillor in North Cowichan, tabled a successful motion at the last council meeting that will see “standards of conduct” established for council members and employees, as well as a new oath of office for council members.
The new standards of conduct and oath of office, which are now being prepared by staff and will be tabled at a future council meeting, are expected to set behavioural expectations for council members and staff that will “instill public trust and confidence, contribute to a respectful workplace and not bring the municipality into disrepute”.
Siebring said while the recent case in which fellow North Cowichan councillor Joyce Behnsen was disciplined by council for bullying and harassing a municipal employee brought the issue to the forefront for him, it’s something that he has given much thought to over the years.
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“I have sworn an oath of office in North Cowichan three different times now that has come straight from the Community Charter, and it’s really not very impressive,” he said.
“Most councillors don’t remember much of what they said, other than that they will act in the interests of the constituents. I think it would be good to have standards in which council members and staff declare how they will conduct themselves and show respect for other councillors and staff.”
Behnsen said at the meeting that she hopes that the new policy will help the public know their rights when dealing with the municipality.
“It would be helpful for the public to know how their questions and concerns with the municipality should be addressed,” she said.
Siebring said he studied the issue for some time before he brought it to the council table.
He said he discovered that Ontario requires all its municipalities to have codes of conduct, and there’s even a conduct commissioner in that province to ensure everyone follows the rules.
“I also researched how some other jurisdictions deal with it as well and came up with a five-page code of conduct that I sent to our staff for consideration when developing our standards of conduct and oath of office,” Siebring said.
“My hope is that by the end of our term, we’ll have this in place so the incoming council will know the ground rules. If councillors choose to step outside the standards of conduct, it would be an issue that the province would need to deal with.”