March 27, 2018 10:36 pm
Updated: March 27, 2018 10:41 pm

Halifax councillors order report on external consultant to deal with complaints against them

Halifax Regional Council met at Halifax City Hall on March 27, 2018.

Steve Silva / Global News

Halifax councillors voted for a staff report to be produced that explores retaining an external consultant to review and investigate complaints made against councillors.

The move comes following several high-profile cases in the municipality of councillors posting things online that have offended people.

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Halifax Mayor Mike Savage said it would be better to have a third party to determine whether a complaint is “valid” enough to warrant Halifax Regional Council‘s attention versus a councillor or internal member of the municipality that reports to councillors.

“Eventually, at the end of the day, council has to make the decision, but there’s a screening process that I think could be helped by somebody who knows the rules and can determine how serious these complaints are,” he told reporters shortly after the vote.

Councillors have discussed a rising number of complaints made against them and the subsequent repercussions in private meetings.

“Occasionally, we spend a fair bit of time on issues that I’m not sure we should be talking about,” said Savage.

He explained that there’s a difference between residents disagreeing with a councillor’s position on a development proposal, for example, and “a position that is inherently unbecoming of a councillor.”

The aforementioned consultant would act as the gatekeeper, and councillors would still be responsible for any potential repercussions.

The consultant would also try to resolve the complaints and provide recommendations to councillors.

READ MORE: Matt Whitman censured over conduct, no punishment for other councillors

District 13 Coun. Matt Whitman, the subject of numerous complaints regarding his Twitter use, did not agree to an interview requested by Global News. Instead, he referred to what he said during a councillors’ discussion on the matter earlier.

It wasn’t clear if he was referring to a specific statement, but he said at one point during the meeting: “I don’t personally think we have an ethics or an integrity problem at city hall, and I think you agree. We have a social media sensitivity issue.”

Whitman was one of two councillors who voted against the motion.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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