Responsible conduct of locally elected officials
How elected officials conduct themselves in their relationships with elected colleagues, staff and the public is directly connected to how a community is governed. These three groups play a significant role in helping local elected officials carry out their collective responsibilities as decision-makers of their communities.
Responsible conduct is grounded in elected officials conducting themselves with honesty and integrity and in a way that furthers a local government’s ability to provide good governance to their community. Good governance includes:
- Providing for the stewardship of a community’s public assets
- Providing services, laws and other matters for community benefit
- Acting in a way that is accountable, transparent, ethical, respectful of the rules of law, collaborative, effective and efficient
If a local government faces issues related to less-than-responsible conduct, it may affect the local government’s ability to provide good governance to their community. These issues may include:
- Disputes among elected officials on municipal council and regional district boards
- Inappropriate behaviour towards staff
- Questionable behaviour at council or board meetings or in interactions with the public
- Conflict of interest violations
- Alleged breaches of procedures or rules during meetings or the duty to respect confidentiality
Current responsible conduct framework
The tools available to address or prevent less-than-responsible conduct by locally elected officials include education and training, legislation, legislated offices and the courts. Together, these provide support and guidance for local government elected officials so that they may govern effectively and according to good governance principles.
Advice, education and training
Partner organizations that support the local government system include:
- Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM)
- Local Government Management Association of BC (LGMA)
- The Local Government Leadership Academy (LGLA)
Each organization provides advice, education and training for elected officials and staff including topics related to responsible conduct. Educational opportunities include interactive workshops such as LGLA forums and LGMA programs. These organizations also provide educational materials and best practice guides.
The Community Charter and Local Government Act set out the purposes of municipalities and regional districts, the roles and responsibilities of elected officials and specific obligations of the local government itself. Other legislation such as the Workers Compensation Act and the BC Human Rights Code require local governments to meet their obligations as employers to ensure the health and safety of their employees and to address and prevent inappropriate behaviour.
Legislated offices have targeted oversight functions related to local government. These offices include:
- Inspector of Municipalities
- Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner
- Office of the Ombudsperson
- Office of the Auditor General for Local Government
Note: The Auditor General for Local Government office stopped operations in March 2021.
Issues related to responsible conduct of individual elected officials typically fall outside the mandates of these offices.
The judicial system (the courts) plays a significant role as judges are responsible for making final decisions about legal matters that relate to responsible conduct.
Working group on responsible conduct
The working group on responsible conduct is a joint initiative of the Union of BC Municipalities (UBCM), the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and the Local Government Management Association.
The staff-level working group was formed to better understand issues related to responsible conduct and to explore how B.C.’s responsible conduct framework could be further strengthened.
In September 2017, UBCM members endorsed the Policy Report of the Working Group on Responsible Conduct (PDF) that included several recommendations to strengthen B.C.’s responsible conduct framework. The working group is collaboratively working to implement the recommendations.
The working group has identified and defined four foundational principles—integrity, accountability, respect, and leadership and collaboration—that can be used as a resource to guide the conduct of both individual elected officials and the collective council or board.
Model code of conduct
The working group has developed a model code of conduct that sets out shared principles and standards of conduct to help local government councils or boards get started on developing their own code of conduct. The document is also useful for councils or boards who wish to review or refresh an existing code of conduct.
A companion guide is also available to facilitate a local council or board’s conversations as they go through the process of developing their own code of conduct. The guide provides discussion questions, things to keep in mind, and other helpful tips and resources.
Prevention and compliance
The working group has developed a guide about fostering responsible conduct, maintaining good governance, resolving conduct issues informally, and the essentials of code of conduct enforcement.
The guide provides examples, leading practice tips, things local governments should consider and links to further information and resources.