Councillors to Debate Integrity Complaint Fees After Ontario Ombudsman Calls Them Out

Joey Coleman

Hamilton City Hall

Ontario’s Ombudsman Paul Dubé has denounced the City of Hamilton’s practice of charging a $100 fee to file a complaint to Hamilton’s Integrity Commissioners when a person believes there has been a violation of Council’s Code of Conduct.

Dubé wrote City Council on January 12, 2022, calling on Council to remove the fee “as it penalizes complainants for exercising their statutory rights, and may prevent legitimate complaints from being brought forward due to concerns about financial cost.”

The Municipal Act requires the City of Hamilton to retain an Integrity Commissioner and maintain a process for citizen complaints.

The Act does not proscribe any qualification requirements for Integrity Commissioners, nor does it explicitly prevent the charging of fees.

Hamilton is one of the few municipalities to charge a fee.

“Charging a fee to complain is entirely inconsistent with the primary intent of the Integrity Commissioner scheme, which is to foster democratic legitimacy and public trust at the local level,” Dubé wrote.

The Ombudsman says if Council wishes to keep the fee, it should create a mechanism to “ensure that staff have the discretion to waive the fee depending on the circumstances, such as where the complainant does not have the means to pay.”

The letter was presented to City Council during their January 19 meeting.

At the January meeting, Councillor Nrinder Nann moved to send the letter to Governance Committee. Nann wants the fee eliminated.

“I think that it’s appropriate for Council to take action on the recommendations,” she stated.

Councillor Maureen Wilson, who is the Chair of the Governance Committee, states she will move to eliminate the fee.

The Councillors on the Governance Committee are Wilson, Brad Clark, Lloyd Ferguson, Maria Pearson, Arlene Vanderbeek, and Terry Whitehead.

Hamilton’s “Integrity Commissioner” is the firm of former Hamilton City Solicitor Janice Atwood-Petkovski.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 9:30 am and will be livestreamed by the City of Hamilton.

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First published: May 30, 2022
Last edited: May 30, 2022
Author: Joey Coleman
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