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Province, Katz dispute ethics commissioner setup

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Mayor Sam Katz

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The Selinger government says it won’t go along with Sam Katz’s plan to create an ethics commissioner for city hall.

Katz convinced members of his executive policy committee this morning to find money in the 2014 budget to create an office of ethics commissioner, who would be free to investigate allegations of breaches of the city’s code of conduct by members of council and all city staff.

However, Katz cautioned that the new position would only be created if the province amended the City Charter to give such a position the authority to conduct investigations and recommend sanctions, including removal from office.

But a provincial government spokesman said this afternoon that such legislative changes aren’t necessary because the city already has the power to create an ethics commissioner – the same response it’s given since Katz first asked the province in 2009.

Katz didn’t comment on the province’s rejection but he said this morning that there would be no point in proceeding unless the province co-operated.

"If we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it right," Katz said.

Katz said he’s proposing that funds be allocated in the 2014 budget, which is being reviewed and will be passed Dec. 17.

Katz said he envisions the role of ethics commissioner would be taken on by a retired judge who would work on retainer, being paid a nominal sum only when asked to investigate allegations.

Katz did not state how much money it would take to create the office of ethics commissioner but suggested it would not be expensive.

"We don’t need a full-time person for this," Katz said. "It makes a lot more sense than having a full-time employee sitting around and waiting."

There have been repeated calls by members of council for the creation of an ethics commissioner to investigate allegations of wrongdoings by senior city staff and members of council.

However, Katz said the advice of city staff was that while the city can create the post of ethics commissioner, the individual would have no power to recommend sanctions, and it would be pointless to create a position without the appropriate powers.

Repeated requests to the province over the years to appoint an ethics commissioner have also been turned down, he said.

"We can set (an ethics commissioner) up but without powers, it’s a waste of time," Katz said in explaining the latest bid to create an ethics commissioner for Winnipeg.

 

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

 

History

Updated on Wednesday, December 4, 2013 at 4:16 PM CST: Adds provincial government reaction.

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