Code of conduct to be in place for Edmonton city council by mid-summer

Edmonton city councillor Scott McKeen during a meeting at City Hall on April 4, 2018. Global News

Edmonton city councillors are crafting a code of conduct for how the political side of city hall business is run.

It’ll include rules that restrict how councillors lobby for land deals. That’s something Mayor Don Iveson has seen in previous years where councillors could be considered interfering in how a developer was putting together a land deal with city administration.

“It was all in a grey area. I thought it was inappropriate and I thought it was unethical but I had no backup,” Iveson said. “There was no integrity commissioner and there was no code of conduct.”

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That will change by July 23, as mandated by the province. Councillor Bev Esslinger is chairing council’s code of conduct committee that is crafting the rules that they’ll have to abide by.

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What they want to have in place is an ethics commissioner for residents to take a complaint to that would have consequences if wrongdoing is found.

“I think it’s a balance,” Esslinger told reporters. “To have a code without a vehicle to be able to influence or to have consequences, it would just be empty words.”

There would be limits on gifts councillors can accept without declaring them. The target is $300.

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There are also calls to have rules in place to prevent councillors missing votes if the political heat gets too hot for them. That’s something Councillor Scott McKeen wants to see, after witnessing less than 13 votes on some controversial items.

He said council decisions sometimes lead to lost sleep. Even confrontations in public, like when he was working out at the YMCA.

“Those things happen but that’s what you sign up for, folks,” he said. “Some people will be extremely furious with you afterwards.”

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He said he’s not talking about when councillors are on city business, or if a particular vote was supposed to happen one specific day but because of unforeseen circumstances is delayed to a later date that leads to an unexpected scheduling conflict.

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“We all understand there are legitimate reasons to miss a vote, or miss a debate,” McKeen said. “There are illegitimate reasons as well, where it’s a political dodge. (It) doesn’t happen very often, but as someone who has to face the slings and arrows, I want everybody to face them.”

A draft version of the code was voted on by the committee. It will be reviewed a month from now, then eventually voted on by the full city council prior to coming into being in July.

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