INNISFAIL – Seeking improved and more comprehensive transparency and accountability for local citizens, town council has passed a disclosure bylaw, making Innisfail only the third municipality in Alberta to adopt one.
The new Council Disclosure Bylaw, which follows similar ones in Edmonton and Okotoks, was passed after three readings at town council’s regular meeting on July 12. It was effective as of that date.
“It’s just another layer for us to try and have everything above board, and a level playing field. Also, with us having gone through a code of conduct (review) I think it’s something we want to stay away from, if at all possible,” said Coun. Donnie Hill, who went through a Council Code of Conduct probe during the past year. “I think this would be one of those things that might prevent anything in the future. I think it is fully acceptable to expect a councillor to adhere to this.”
Todd Becker, the town’s chief administrative officer, introduced a draft Council Disclosure Bylaw on July 12 for council’s consideration. His report included a recommendation that council not proceed in adopting the new bylaw.
“It’s not a strong no. It is up to you on your flavour and appetite if you want to apply disclosure moving forward,” Becker told council.
However, he added that administration was also advising council the additional requirement for transparency as an elected official is strong.
“Administration is under the mindset that the onus is on the elected official to understand the requirements of being an elected official and disclose pecuniary interest as required and legislated through the Municipal Government Act,” said Becker.
Innisfail’s new Council Disclosure Bylaw requires every councillor to file a councillor disclosure statement with the chief administrative officer (CAO) or designate no later than 30 days following a byelection or general election.
The councillor’s disclosure statement must include the names of family members and employers. It also must list:
• Any non-distributing corporation in which the councillor owns shares or is a director or officer
• Any distributing corporation in which the councillor beneficially owns 10 percent of the voting shares
• Any partnership or firm in which the councillor has a financial interest
The new bylaw also says the CAO may provide a copy of a councillor’s annual disclosure statement to any town employee the CAO deems appropriate.
As well, the bylaw adds a councillor’s disclosure statements will not be made available to the public without the consent of the councillor.
“Administration is to advise. If there is something we identify of potential pecuniary interest we advise the mayor or even directly with the councillor that it may pose but it is up to the councillor to declare,” said Becker.
“My job is to mitigate legislation. I would not consider myself a pecuniary interest watch dog but (would) utilize knowledge and a base of understanding with information before me to help council be successful.”
The July 12 regular meeting was held without Mayor Jim Romane but Coun. Gavin Bates, who is council’s current deputy mayor, said the mayor, in a prior discussion with him before July 12, did not have “any strong opinions” on anything he saw on the agenda.
The draft disclosure bylaw then went to additional discussion and a vote on the three readings, with each passing unanimously.
“There are only two other municipalities in Alberta right now that are doing this, so it’s great to be at the forefront of this. I see a lot of people wanting more transparency and that is where we are trying to accommodate,” said Coun. Jean Barclay.
“I think we will see more of it going forward. I see conversation in the community that people want more transparency and expect more transparency and accountability from their elected officials, and so that is what we are delivering to the community.”