Candidate asks: Private citizen vs Public official - where does the line get drawn?

Bcouncil 100x100y Carol Gottlob, Candidate Ward 4

October 6, 2014



Each week, until the ballots are cast on October 27th, we are going to follow the tales and travails of a single candidate.  We have chosen Carol Gottlob, running in ward 4 against a well entrenched incumbent.  Gottlob has no experience in civic government, has never campaigned before.   Following this candidate is not an endorsement; Gottlob will win on her own merit.

I’m continuing to knock on doors this week, and several residents are asking questions about the type of Councillor I will be if elected to office. How accessible will I be, whose voice will I represent inside City Hall and how accountable will I be to commitments made, and will I give up my current employment if elected Oct 27th? I am hearing residents struggling with disappointments they’ve witnessed over various commitments to their issues: Gaps in community engagement, or the morality conflicts they have seen over private interest representation instead of what they feel is the community’s interests. Why does this gap exist and what I am going to do to change it?

Gottlob -with pier in background

The pier is something we paid too much for it – but we are stuck with it – lets make the best of what we have. Candidate

Do I believe our council candidates to be well intentioned good people? I do. I believe everyone enters into public service with an honest intent to serve the people of their community. Do I believe public office is easy to serve? I do not. I believe there are many challenges to bridging the gaps between opposing interests. But what I also believe is today our City Officials who are elected public servants are operating in the absence of a more specific and a more defined set of rules for their conduct. This absence of an effective policy and procedure is, I believe, to the elected Officials’ own detriment and to that of the citizens who elect them.

I believe our publicly elected officials should have these defined rules of expectation to which they can refer to as guidance for what the city residents expect of them; a defined boundary of where their roles as private citizens and their position as elected official meets. Residents want to know when elected officials are working on behalf of their constituents, or representing their private rights. When in the case of potential conflict, how is this resolved, which role supersedes the other, or which role must be abdicated? This is not happening effectively today and I am hearing from various residents that this absence of definition and formalized process is no longer acceptable. Simply stated, there needs to be clear decisive separation of the role of City Official versus that of private citizen and private business.

As a result of compensation at both the regional and municipal level, Councillors today make just less than $100,000, plus expenses. I believe this compensation should entitle citizens to some clear expectations of their elected officials such as: full time dedication to the role while serving, and a clear separation between their private business and the proposals before City Hall. If and when these two should collide, a declaration of conflict of interest should be made, followed by the removal of the Official from participating on the matter and any others related to it. I don’t believe public Officials should be allowed to use private facilities, time, or materials for personal benefit, which would affect their financial interest. There should be no opportunity for personal gain be it by the elected official, or family members, and be it through personal financial gain or converted into personal projects. I believe all votes should be recorded, and easily searchable by residents. Councillors make impactful decisions to our community and their constituents have the right to know not just what they believe are important considerations prior to a decision but also how their council representative voted on the decision.

Gottlob smile tighter cropping

I believe in the need for an Ethics Commissioner.

More than the existence of these rules under a code of conduct I believe every seated council official should go through a mandatory training program. This program would not be limited to the code of conduct regulations but include as well expense reporting and more stringent fundraising regulations. So that there should no longer exist inconsistencies of reporting on any of these matters, as may be the case today. Finally if these rules are to have their wanted effect, then they must be enforceable by an objective third party, which is why I believe in the need for an Ethics Commissioner. In order for this role to be effective, I believe this individual can have no formal ties to ongoing work or projects with the body that it is currently regulating, otherwise we risk the ability to maintain sound objectivity.

Our City has grown and matured over the years from a once small town to a larger developed city with more mature and diverse needs from its municipal government. It’s time Burlington’s government starts putting in place these types of policies and procedures in order to continue to nurture our engaged citizen model; a model intended to reflect our mutual respect of our residents and elected Officials. In having these clear delineations between citizen and elected Officials we as a community can continue to build upon our successes without the appearance of conflict.


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4 comments to Candidate asks: Private citizen vs Public official – where does the line get drawn?

  • tenni

    Is there any evidence to indicate that city council is not working with a Code of Conduct? Codes are basic to good governance and any conflict of interest needs to be declared with the councillor / staff? indicating that they are in a position of conflict with regards to receiving any form of monetary consequences. We see in a larger neighbouring city where a councillor and mayor did not believe that they needed to put their company in a blind trust situation.

    As far as needing an Ethics commissioner I am less convinced. If there is no conflict of interest policy at city hall for elected officials as well as staff, then one needs to be created. During that discussion and procedure the need for an Ethics commissioner should be examined.

    We have a candidate making a vague claim about conflict of interest without evidence to state that this is happening?

  • Daphne

    Well put. I’m for a Code of Conduct for Staff and an Ethics Commissioner.

  • Gloria

    Excellent contribution Carol! You’ve got my vote.

  • Kurt

    Congratulations on a well thought out set of beliefs Carol. I do not live in your ward, but would vote for you in flash if I did. I hope the folks in your ward seriously consider their vote, before casting it.