By Mike Williscraft
In a close vote, Grimsby council voted Monday night to have a report drafted to outline an independent, third party reporting process for whistleblower complaints.
At its Jan. 21 meeting, council voted to approve a code of conduct, which included a new whistleblower policy, as presented, with staff and council having to report any concerns of misconduct to either the Town’s HR department or the chief administrative officer.
Monday night, Coun. Dorothy Bothwell introduced a resolution to lift the whistleblower component from the code of conduct and create a mechanism for anonymous reporting of non-compliance.
Coun. Randy Vaine questioned whether Bothwell’s motion should be heard at all asking if a two-thirds majority was needed to revisit a decision of council.
“Why is there a resolution as opposed to a notice of motion…We’ve had no option to discuss this. It is just being thrown at us,” said Vaine.
Clerk Sarah Kim noted the motion came under “resolutions” because it was an item previously discussed by council, so it was a matter coming back to council.
Coun. Reg Freake spoke in favour of the motion, noting third party options are common these days.
“I like the resolution. It has a lot of merit. Other municipalities have it. I think we should include it,” said Freake.
While Coun. Dave Sharpe asked questions regarding who would act as the third party and what costs would be incurred, CAO Harry Schlange noted those details would come in the report to be drafted by Katarina Bohar, Grimsby’s manager of human resources.
Coun. John Dunstall said other municipalities should be contacted to see how they have implemented such measures.
Freake agreed, but noted a wider spread net could help gather more input.
“I think we should go beyond just Niagara’s municipalities. We should look at industry standards. So let’s look outside the Region,” said Freake.
Coun. Lianne Vardy said the third party option is important to create a process whereby the municipality is not solely left to monitor itself.
“An outsider’s review is good. It will be completely free of bias…Otherwise you are just policing yourself,” said Vardy.
Coun. Kevin Ritchie, who was among those opposed to changing the code of conduct initially was absent from Monday’s meeting.