EDITORIAL: City code of conduct is necessary

It should not be up to the public to hold council accountable in this kind of situation…

A code of conduct for City of Port Alberni councillors is overdue.

City council decided earlier this month to craft a code of conduct after a determined resident uncovered permit irregularities with a renovation to the Kingsway Hotel and Pub, owned by city councillor Helen Poon.

Neil Anderson spent a year and a half trying to get answers from council about what was going on at the Kingsway. Mayor Sharie Minions said it was a difficult situation because the Kingsway is a private business, even if it is run by a city councillor with such a public position.

While the idea of creating a code of conduct may seem like it is targeting Coun. Poon, there is other precedent. In 2018 former city councillor Chris Alemany was caught using a fake Facebook account under a pseudonym to gain access to a Port Alberni-based social media group from which he had previously been banned.

Alemany apologized for his behaviour amid public condemnation; the action likely cost him a chance of re-election later that year.

The incident prompted the city to create a social media policy for elected officials. It closed a gap in the overall policy, which covered city staff but not elected officials.

Perhaps a general code of conduct should have been examined at the time.

While Neil Anderson’s determination in uncovering Poon’s permitting issues is commendable, it should not be up to the public to hold council accountable in this kind of situation.

The Community Charter in British Columbia provides ethical standards for locally elected officials covering issues such as conflicts of interest, influence, gifts, contracts and use of insider information. There is nothing saying a municipal government entity cannot have its own additional code.

The city could take Alemany’s words of contrition to heart when considering their new code: “Elected officials are told from day one that they are representatives of the City and their actions and words in the public matter for the repute of the City no matter the form of communication.”

— Alberni Valley News

Municipal GovernmentPort Alberni