Integrity Commissioner and Code of Conduct

Council adopted a Code of Conduct to ensure that Council and its Committees share a common basis of acceptable conduct.

Highlands East Code of Conduct

Download our Code of Conduct

Code of Conduct Frequently Asked Questions

What are the Integrity Commissioner's main duties?

The Integrity Commissioner's primary role is to ensure the Code of Conduct (Code) and the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. M. 50 (Act) is followed.

Responsibilities include:

  • addressing any alleged violations against the Code or Act
  • assessing requests and complaints made by any person regarding alleged violations of the Code or Act
  • educating Elected and Appointed Officials with respect to obligations and responsibilities under the Code or Act
  • outlining recommendations to deal with any violations

What is the extent of the Integrity Commissioner's authority?

Council has adopted a complaint protocol that sets out the Integrity Commissioner's authority over matters addressed by the Code or Act. The protocol outlines types of complaints that are covered by existing legislation. For example, an allegation violating the Criminal Code of Canada is a police matter – this allegation would not be investigated by the Integrity Commissioner.

Who can file a complaint?

Members of the public, Highlands East Council and Municipal employees can file a complaint. More information on filing a complaint can be found under the complaint process.

What is the process for filing a complaint?

A complaint can be filed by the complaint protocol. Complainants may decide to use an informal or formal procedure to file a complaint.

How is the complaint investigated?

If an informal resolution is unsuccessful, a formal investigation may be undertaken. The complainant may proceed with a formal complaint through the Integrity Commissioner. Complaints must be submitted within (6) six weeks of the matter becoming known to the individual and no more than (6) six months after the alleged violation occurring. No action will be taken on a complaint received beyond these deadlines. If the Integrity Commissioner finds the complaint to be valid, findings will be reported.

Does the Integrity Commissioner investigate complaints about Municipal employees?

No. The Integrity Commissioner does not have any authority over municipal employees. The activities of the Integrity Commissioner are solely related to the Code with respect to Council and Municipal Committee and Board behaviour and only with respect to the Act.

Can an anonymous complaint be filed?

No. The complaint protocol does not allow anonymous complaints or withholding the complainant's name from the Member.

How can the public find out about the Integrity Commissioner's activity?

Through the Highlands East municipal website and Council Meeting Minutes.

Integrity Commissioner

Council appointed Harold G. Elston as an independent Integrity Commissioner to provide services regarding the application of the Code of Conduct for Elected and Appointed Officials, the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, l R.S.O. 1990, Chapter M.50 (“Act”). The Code and Act apply to all Members of Council and members appointed to boards and committees to promote accountability and transparency in municipal governance.

Responsibilities of the Integrity Commissioner

The Integrity Commissioner is responsible for providing policy advice, complaint resolution and education to Elected and Appointed Officials. This is done to maintain high ethical standards at the Municipality of Highlands East.

The Integrity Commissioner:

  • Investigates complaints and alleged breaches of the Code or Act for Elected or Appointed Officials.
  • Reviews the Code of Conduct for Elected and Appointed Officials and makes recommendations on an annual basis.
  • Serves as an advisor to individual Members of Council and Members of Municipal Boards and Committees in relation to the Code of Conduct and any procedures, rules and policies of the municipality governing ethical behaviour, and act as a proactive educator for Council, the Municipal Administration and the public.
  • Provides an annual report to Council, summarizing activities.
  • Provides individual investigative reports, as required, which will include background concerning a complaint and recommendations to Municipal Council with respect to a complaint.

Complaint Process

Members of Municipal Council and local boards and committees are required to follow the Code and Act, which establishes acceptable behaviour and practices of Municipal officials. Anyone wishing to file a complaint about the conduct or ethical behaviour of any Elected or Appointed Municipal Officials can contact the Integrity Commissioner. The Integrity Commissioner is a neutral, independent officer appointed by Council for a three-year term to encourage and oversee compliance with high standards of conduct expected of elected and appointed officials at the Municipality of Highlands East.

The complaint procedures are divided into two methods – informal and formal.

Informal Complaints

Complainants may choose to use the informal procedure, this procedure involves:

  • advising the Mayor or Deputy Mayor that the behaviour or activity contravenes the Code or Act
  • encouraging the Member to stop the behaviour or activity
  • keeping a written record of the incident
  • confirming satisfaction of dissatisfaction with the Member's response

The Integrity Commissioner can assist with the informal process if the Mayor/Deputy Mayor or complainant are not satisfied with the response received through the informal process.

Formal Complaint Process

Individuals who wish to make formal complaints must do so by submitting a complaint and a sworn affidavit sent directly to:

Integrity Commissioner, Harold G. Elston
391 First Street, Suite 303
Collingwood, ON, L9Y 1B3

The affidavit may be sworn at the Clerk's Office located at the Wilberforce Office, 2249 Loop Road, Wilberforce, ON, K0L 3C0

Elected and Appointed Officials

Elected or Appointed Officials may initiate formal complaints.

About Complaints

Complainants need to set out the basis for the complaint and some personal information. The information collected is required to be kept confidential during the course of an investigation under section 223 of the Municipal Act, 2001. This is subject to whatever information the Integrity Commissioner needs to include in a report to Council on an investigation.