The Litmus Test

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Ethical behaviourTwo renegade members of council broke the town’s Code of Conduct by sending out an unauthorized media release to defend their own, personal positions – but presented them as “town” positions. You already know that reprehensible story.

Clearly this is unacceptable behaviour by any elected officials in any community. But where are the angry protesters marching with signs demanding officials “inpeach” council, screaming “corruption” and demanding councillors resign?

Oh wait, they got themselves elected to council this term… They promised us openness, accountability and transparency… and this is what we got instead.

Councillor Doherty's spouse on right

The town’s Code of Conduct says:

Members of Council … are held to a high standard as leaders of the community and they are expected to become well informed on all aspects of municipal governance, administration, planning and operations. They are also expected to carry out their duties in a fair, impartial, transparent and professional manner.

Inappropriate behaviour such as this blackens the reputation of both the town and the rest of council (admittedly already in tatters from a year of ineptitude, secrecy, broken promises, conflicts of interest, bumbling, investigations, money wasting, tax hikes and self-gratification).

Words that come to mind about this behaviour include dishonest, unscrupulous, dishonorable, unprincipled, unethical, amoral, untrustworthy, venal, underhanded, double-dealing, fraudulent, and nefarious. Maybe even criminal, illegal, and unlawful. Is that how our officials want to be described?

What happens next? That’s the big question.

How will council handle this breach of law, etiquette, morality and ethics? That’s the litmus test for them. Will they stand up for honest government, or stand beside the perpetrators in solidarity?

If the rest of council ducks and weaves, and lets it pass, it will say to the public that this sort of activity is both expected and acceptable to all at the table. It will set the precedent for the measure of ethical and moral standards by which they will all be judged.

It will say to the public that not being open and honest and transparent and accountable is the norm for this council, and that we can expect more of the same in the next three years. More underhanded politics, more self-gratification, more dishonesty.  It will define council as a cartel, not a government – welcome to Tammany Hall.

Whatever they choose to do, it must be done and said in public. Not in the back room where they scuttle so often in fear of having their words reported in the media. Not hidden away in yet another in camera session where a tissue-thin shroud of legality is used to avoid public scrutiny.

It must be done in public where we can hear them, where we can publicly assess their individual honesty and their morality.

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