Gifts from developers, no matter how small, are to be reported to the City Clerk. Were they?

News 100 redBy Pepper Parr

December 29th, 2019



How did the request for what Councillors did with any gifts they received turn out?

The first surprise was the “message” alert we got. They had all abandoned city hall for the holidays and gave different dates for their return.

MMW baasket 4 small

Photographs of the gifts sent to the Mayor.

Two did get back to us and reported that they did get very small gifts which they passed along to a community group. They appear to have taken the Mayor’s lead; she suggested that in future a card would “suffice”.

We got an automatic response from Ward 1 Councillor Kelvin Galbraith that said – “Please note that my office is closed during the holiday shutdown and I will be returning on January 6th. I will have little to no access to email during that time.

We got an automatic response from Ward 2 Councillor Lisa Kearns that said: I’ll be away from the office effective Monday, December 23, 2019 through to Friday, January 3, 2020 inclusive. She followed that up later with “I received the tray of nuts / candy from First National. They were opened and shared on the office floor. My policy (for well over a decade in procurement) is to share, donate or return any gifts. I also graciously decline any gestures over the value of a coffee. Ie: meals, tickets, gift cards, etc. This applies broadly, not only to those with any active application, tender or interest in city business.

We got an automatic response from Ward 3 Councillor Rory Nisan that said: “I am currently out of the office returning on Thursday, January 9, 2020”. He later responded with a note saying he was given one edible gift and passed it on to a local church that holds a community supper.

Shawna Stolte, City and Regional Councillor – Ward 4 said: “I did receive a dish of cashews and chocolate covered almonds from National Homes and I donated it to the Open Doors Community Christmas Dinner last week.

sharman and AB in huddle

Councillors Sharman and Bentivegna sit side by side at Council.

There was no response from Councillors Sharman Ward 5 and Councillor Ward 6 Angelo Bentivegna.

Roland Tanner

Roland Tanner.

Roland Tanner puts the matter of council members getting gifts of any form from anyone in a comment he made on the Gazette:

“The mayor’s “personal policy” is not actually relevant. The City’s Code of Good Governance prevents Councillors accepting gifts over $25 unless they are “an integral part of our duties as a councillor” – in which case they must be reported for the City Clerk.

In the City’s Code of Good Goverance, which every member of Council has signed saying they agree that:

“We will avoid any actual or perceived conflict of interests. We, and our family members, will avoid accepting gifts, and where accepting a gift is an integral part of our duties as a member of council, we will report those valued at more than $25 accepted, to the City Clerk who will annually report them to the public. We will adhere to the Corporate Policy on Gifts and Hospitality.”

The gifts shown in photographs are clearly in excess of the $25 limit, unless my understanding of the costs of gift baskets is way off, and therefore have to be returned/refused. Technically I’m not sure that passing them onto other groups is allowed – it could still be viewed as a ‘benefit’ to the council member. However, if local groups get some benefit out of it, great.

For those of you who are real policy wonks – the Burlington Code of Good Governance is set out HERE.

IntegrityThe collective behaviour of this council on this matter is nothing to be proud of – On January 23rd, every member took part in a half day workshop on just what the Code of Good Governance was all about.  City Council met  in the Great Room at the Paletta Mansion.  It was a closed session with two presentations being made:

A Workshop presented by Mike Galloway, CAO, Town of Caledon, on Governance for Elected Officials and Senior Management.

There was a second Workshop presented by Jeff Abrams and Janice Atwood-Petkovski, Principles of Integrity on Code of Conduct and responsibilities of the Integrity Commissioner.

Marianne Meed Ward has been a huge champion for a Code of Conduct – but she was never able to convince her colleagues on both the 2010-14 and the 2014-2018 to come up with a Code they couldn’t slide around.  The session in January was the first opportunity the new Council got to see what it was that they had to live by.  They appear to have short memories.


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1 comment to Gifts from developers, no matter how small, are to be reported to the City Clerk. Were they?

  • Stephen White

    Any reputable organization worth its salt has a Code of Conduct policy that incorporates provisions dealing with Conflict of Interest and, by extension, accepting gifts from service providers, etc. Absent a policy municipal politicians and public servants should have enough common sense to know that accepting gifts not only places them in a compromising position but has negative connotations and is, to say the least, bad optics.

    The gifts should never have been accepted in the first place. Period. They should have been returned to whoever sent them, and the City Solicitor should follow up with a letter advising the donor to kindly refrain from engaging in this practice in future, regardless of how well-intentioned or innocent the motives. As for the donor, one would hope that business professionals would have enough astuteness to “read the tea leaves” and recognize that this type of behaviour is inappropriate. However, that too would infer common sense which sadly, appears to be in short supply all around.