This article first appeared in a collaborative series produced by the Alberta Municipalities, Rural Municipalities of Alberta and the Ombudsman’s office. To read the full four-part series, start here.
The Ombudsman looked deeper into a code of conduct complaint against several elected officials and recommended a municipal council provide a written decision to the complainant, including a clear explanation of how their council code of conduct bylaw was applied.
Suma Arnold* complained to the Ombudsman that a municipality was unfair in how it processed two council code of conduct complaints. She alleged that the municipality dismissed the code of conduct complaints without merit but did not provide her with an explanation why.
The Ombudsman’s office assessed the scope of the complaint, relevant policy and legislation, the code of conduct bylaw, and interviews statements. Then the evidence was weighed against the Ombudsman’s eight Administrative Fairness Guidelines.
The Ombudsman found the municipality’s process for reaching a decision was fair—it consulted with legal counsel appropriately about the matter which helped prevent an apprehension of bias. Further, the action taken was consistent with the municipality’s previous approach when handling similar complaints. However, the Ombudsman found no reasons for the decision were communicated to the affected party. To be administratively fair, there must be a rational connection drawn between evidence and conclusions. The Ombudsman recommended a written decision be provided including reasons why the complaints were dismissed with references to the appropriate section(s) of the code of conduct bylaw. The municipality accepted the Ombudsman’s recommendation and provided the affected party with the required written response.
*The complainant’s name has been changed to protect confidentiality.