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Niagara Falls to charge $200 fee for integrity complaints

City hall in Niagara Falls, Ont. Don Mitchell / Global News

Niagara Falls, Ont. has opted to charge a $200 fee for people who want to file an integrity complaint against local politicians.

Council voted for the charge after a report revealed that nine integrity commissioner and two workplace harassment investigations, tied to the city councillors, have cost taxpayers over $270,000 since 2015.

Acting city solicitor Ed Lustig suggested that the city take on an administrative fee to “defray the costs” to the municipality itself.

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“To a certain extent, to make sure that people understand that there’s a real process and it’s something that they have to think about before putting in an application because there’s a lot of work involved,” said Lustig.

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Other nearby cities, like Hamilton, St. Catharines, Fort Erie and Grimsby, already charge administration fees in the range of $36 and $200 for integrity complaints.

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Belleville city council fires integrity commissioner, one councillor ejected from meeting – Aug 12, 2020

Grimsby, Fort Erie and Hamilton, refund fees if the complaint is judged to be valid.

Niagara Falls councillors picked the $200 fee after Lustig recommended a number between $36 and $300.

Coun. Lori Lococo suggested the proposed $200 fee would be “a very large sum of money” for some and suggested something lower in the range of $75.

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In response, Coun. Mike Strange suggested that anyone willing to take steps to complain can afford $200.

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“To that point, the last resident that made a complaint, it didn’t cost them anything, but it cost the city taxpayers $21,500,” said Strange.

Lococo also moved for staff to explore an alternate dispute resolution, instead of an integrity commissioner investigation, but council voted it down.

City councillors also voted in favour of asking the integrity commissioner for a full report on any resident’s complaint, with approval of the applicant and respondent, instead of a shorter summary that’s typically circulated by the commission now.