With code of conduct policy approval, councillors get new rules to live by

News Nov 12, 2009 Ancaster News

If the Hamilton Tiger-Cats compete in the Grey Cup, what does a councillor do if offered box seat tickets to the cherished game?

Or what does a politician do if an organization, such as the Hamilton Halton Home Builders Association, invites him or her to play in a golf tournament?

For Mayor Fred Eisenberger, the decision is easy. The tickets and golf outing are gifts that should be declared under council’s new code of conduct policy, approved by councillors this week.

City solicitor Peter Barkwell suggests asking the integrity commissioner for advice on what action to take.

But Stoney Creek Councillor Brad Clark believes the issues are much more complicated.

“There are still holes in this process,” said Clark.

Clark presented another example. What if a councillor has joined city economic development officials in a meeting at a restaurant with representatives of a business considering relocating their company to Hamilton? Should the councillor declare the meal a gift under the $200 benefits section of the code of conduct?

“This is not pie in the sky,” said Clark, adding incidents like the ones he described occur. “We don’t capture (these examples). We are leaving politicians hanging.”

Under the code of conduct, a politician must disclose within 30 days a gift or benefit that exceeds $200.

Councillors Terry Whitehead and Scott Duvall admitted this summer they shared a box seat with businessman Chris Ecklund at Ivor Wynne Stadium to watch a Tiger-Cats game. The revelation raised the question of what politicians can accept as a gift from a friend and lobbyist. Ecklund said it was nothing more than a couple of buddies getting together. Ecklund has known Duvall and Whitehead for years.

Politicians earlier this year were also criticized when some purchased tickets to the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce economic summit at less than face value. Some councillors believed it was important to attend the event, while others boycotted the gathering of business and community leaders.

Councillors did eliminate a section in the policy that included politicians attending symposiums, events that are part of the councillor’s job to represent the city, and charity events. The idea, said Mountain Councillor Tom Jackson, who introduced the amendment, is that the politician is simply representing the city when taking part in an event, such as a conference. For instance, if the mayor, who attends hundreds of dinners, conferences and other city-related events during the course of a year, had to fill out a form every time he received the $200, his staff would be consumed by paperwork.

“This is a logical administrative approach,” said Jackson.

Ward 1 Councillor Brian McHattie had no problem keeping the paperwork in tact. He said it would provide further proof to the public that councillors are not doing anything wrong.

“It’s increased transparency,” he said. “It identifies which dinners we went to and people can see that.”

Clark and McHattie both opposed the amendment, but still supported the revised code of conduct, which has been in development since early 2008.

With code of conduct policy approval, councillors get new rules to live by

News Nov 12, 2009 Ancaster News

If the Hamilton Tiger-Cats compete in the Grey Cup, what does a councillor do if offered box seat tickets to the cherished game?

Or what does a politician do if an organization, such as the Hamilton Halton Home Builders Association, invites him or her to play in a golf tournament?

For Mayor Fred Eisenberger, the decision is easy. The tickets and golf outing are gifts that should be declared under council’s new code of conduct policy, approved by councillors this week.

City solicitor Peter Barkwell suggests asking the integrity commissioner for advice on what action to take.

But Stoney Creek Councillor Brad Clark believes the issues are much more complicated.

“There are still holes in this process,” said Clark.

Clark presented another example. What if a councillor has joined city economic development officials in a meeting at a restaurant with representatives of a business considering relocating their company to Hamilton? Should the councillor declare the meal a gift under the $200 benefits section of the code of conduct?

“This is not pie in the sky,” said Clark, adding incidents like the ones he described occur. “We don’t capture (these examples). We are leaving politicians hanging.”

Under the code of conduct, a politician must disclose within 30 days a gift or benefit that exceeds $200.

Councillors Terry Whitehead and Scott Duvall admitted this summer they shared a box seat with businessman Chris Ecklund at Ivor Wynne Stadium to watch a Tiger-Cats game. The revelation raised the question of what politicians can accept as a gift from a friend and lobbyist. Ecklund said it was nothing more than a couple of buddies getting together. Ecklund has known Duvall and Whitehead for years.

Politicians earlier this year were also criticized when some purchased tickets to the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce economic summit at less than face value. Some councillors believed it was important to attend the event, while others boycotted the gathering of business and community leaders.

Councillors did eliminate a section in the policy that included politicians attending symposiums, events that are part of the councillor’s job to represent the city, and charity events. The idea, said Mountain Councillor Tom Jackson, who introduced the amendment, is that the politician is simply representing the city when taking part in an event, such as a conference. For instance, if the mayor, who attends hundreds of dinners, conferences and other city-related events during the course of a year, had to fill out a form every time he received the $200, his staff would be consumed by paperwork.

“This is a logical administrative approach,” said Jackson.

Ward 1 Councillor Brian McHattie had no problem keeping the paperwork in tact. He said it would provide further proof to the public that councillors are not doing anything wrong.

“It’s increased transparency,” he said. “It identifies which dinners we went to and people can see that.”

Clark and McHattie both opposed the amendment, but still supported the revised code of conduct, which has been in development since early 2008.

With code of conduct policy approval, councillors get new rules to live by

News Nov 12, 2009 Ancaster News

If the Hamilton Tiger-Cats compete in the Grey Cup, what does a councillor do if offered box seat tickets to the cherished game?

Or what does a politician do if an organization, such as the Hamilton Halton Home Builders Association, invites him or her to play in a golf tournament?

For Mayor Fred Eisenberger, the decision is easy. The tickets and golf outing are gifts that should be declared under council’s new code of conduct policy, approved by councillors this week.

City solicitor Peter Barkwell suggests asking the integrity commissioner for advice on what action to take.

But Stoney Creek Councillor Brad Clark believes the issues are much more complicated.

“There are still holes in this process,” said Clark.

Clark presented another example. What if a councillor has joined city economic development officials in a meeting at a restaurant with representatives of a business considering relocating their company to Hamilton? Should the councillor declare the meal a gift under the $200 benefits section of the code of conduct?

“This is not pie in the sky,” said Clark, adding incidents like the ones he described occur. “We don’t capture (these examples). We are leaving politicians hanging.”

Under the code of conduct, a politician must disclose within 30 days a gift or benefit that exceeds $200.

Councillors Terry Whitehead and Scott Duvall admitted this summer they shared a box seat with businessman Chris Ecklund at Ivor Wynne Stadium to watch a Tiger-Cats game. The revelation raised the question of what politicians can accept as a gift from a friend and lobbyist. Ecklund said it was nothing more than a couple of buddies getting together. Ecklund has known Duvall and Whitehead for years.

Politicians earlier this year were also criticized when some purchased tickets to the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce economic summit at less than face value. Some councillors believed it was important to attend the event, while others boycotted the gathering of business and community leaders.

Councillors did eliminate a section in the policy that included politicians attending symposiums, events that are part of the councillor’s job to represent the city, and charity events. The idea, said Mountain Councillor Tom Jackson, who introduced the amendment, is that the politician is simply representing the city when taking part in an event, such as a conference. For instance, if the mayor, who attends hundreds of dinners, conferences and other city-related events during the course of a year, had to fill out a form every time he received the $200, his staff would be consumed by paperwork.

“This is a logical administrative approach,” said Jackson.

Ward 1 Councillor Brian McHattie had no problem keeping the paperwork in tact. He said it would provide further proof to the public that councillors are not doing anything wrong.

“It’s increased transparency,” he said. “It identifies which dinners we went to and people can see that.”

Clark and McHattie both opposed the amendment, but still supported the revised code of conduct, which has been in development since early 2008.