The Burlington Integrity Commissioner has been busy - looks as if he is going to be even busier.

By Pepper Parr

November 14th, 2022



Once the members of the 2022-2026 City Council are sworn in the Integrity Commissioner can begin to delve into the files they have on their desk.

Two members of council have issues the Integrity Commissioner is understood to be looking into.

The Gazette is aware of one complaint against ward 1 Councillor Kelvin Galbraith that has been filed and is aware of a second complaint against the same councillor that is being prepared.

Another member of Council reported herself to the Integrity Commissioner over what was later determined by Council to be an “inadvertent” comment made during a meeting of the Burlington Downtown Business Association.  A formal complaint on that matter is being discussed but apparently not made.

An Integrity Commissioner is in place to ensure that members of Council are adhering to the Code of Good Governance.

There have been two investigations: one resulted in a five day suspension of pay; a second was not accepted as a complaint but the Integrity Commissioner did suggest an apology be given which Mayor Marianne Meed Ward turned into a 14 minute display of exceptionally poor behaviour and spite.  For those who haven’t seen the behaviour it is HERE

Among the questions we asked are the following:

Does the person filing the complaint have to be a resident of Burlington?


Does a complaint have to come from an individual (over the age of 18) or can it be filed by an Ontario Corporation or non profit?

We will require the name and contact information for the individual representing the entity, but a complaint may be filed on behalf of an entity that is not an individual person.

This is not a sanction an Integrity Commissioner can impose. These devices were once used in the United States.

What are the sanctions that Integrity Principles have and do they include the power to declare a seat vacant?

Principles Integrity does not have the power to impose sanctions under its role as integrity commissioner for the City of Burlington. Sanctions, if made, will come about after Council’s consideration of an investigation report which contains recommendations for sanction.

An integrity commissioner cannot recommend, and a Council cannot impose, the vacation of the seat of an elected official.

The singular exception would result from a formal complaint made pursuant to the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, in which case removal from office could be considered by a judge upon an application to the court. Such applications are extremely rare.

With respect to code of conduct infractions, the Municipal Act provides that the City may impose either of the following penalties if we report that, in our opinion, a member has contravened the code of conduct:

1. A reprimand.
2. Suspension of the remuneration paid to the member in respect of his or her services as a member of council or of the local board, as the case may be, for a period of up to 90 days.

In addition, the City can decide to take what we describe as remedial steps in the context of any particular code breach. For example, since it is always in the power of the City to choose who would chair a particular committee, in the circumstances of a complaint the City could choose to remove a councillor from their position as chair.

Who determines what the sanctions are by which we mean who tells you that this is what you can do.

We serve as independent statutory officers do not take instructions from either Council or the City’s administration with respect to the complaints we administer.
The sanctions we recommend to Council are in compliance with the legislative framework in which we and Council operates.

Are we correct in understanding that the you do not make the decision but recommend to city council that it make a specific decision.


Are we correct in saying that a person who is not satisfied with the decision a city council makes can appeal that decision to Divisional Court.

Not quite. The Divisional Court considers judicial review applications arising out of the decision, and in such a case the issues will centre around such things as jurisdiction and procedural fairness, not the quality or correctness of the decision.

The Ombudsman of Ontario also has jurisdiction when an integrity commissioner either refuses to investigate or completes an investigation, but once again the consideration there is whether procedural fairness has been afforded, not the decision itself.

With specific reference to public apologies, it is our practice to never recommend a public apology be imposed as a sanction, because an apology not freely given is not in our view productive or in the public interest. That said, we often suggest to a respondent that in the appropriate circumstances an appropriate apology can bring about an informal resolution to a matter.

Sounds a lot more serious than Traffic Court.

Related news stories:

Galbraith issues a statement

Advice given to Galbraith by the Integrity Commissioner

Why do we publish the rant again and again?

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4 comments to The Burlington Integrity Commissioner has been busy – looks as if he is going to be even busier.

  • bonnie

    As commented above, what is the purpose of the Integrity Commission? This group is hired by the city and its’ findings presented to members of Council, who in turn, determine how the complaint will be handled. In fairness, should the complaint not be investigated by an independent provincial agency, rather than by a company working on contract for the city?

  • Thanks for this clarification Pepper. It became clear to us after the Amberley Gavel decision at Council Dec 2014 that achieved nothing except income for Amberley Gavel, serious improper decisions of council/staff are best handled under 274 of the Municipal Act as Toronto did with its 2002 judicial investigation by Hon. Denise E. Bellamy. A municipality recently reported paying $19,000 for a report on why a Council retained investigator did not have a reason to conduct an investigation!

    Council are the only ones who can ask for such a review so if you are not a member of Council as 2022 election results have declared in Anne’s case you have only one option;. get sufficient support for a petition from Burlington residents and businesses that sets out irrefutable evidence of wrongdoing that requires such review. Not an easy task, but if Toronto could do it based on one councillor who recognized something was very wrong in terms of one externnal contract before Council, we believe residents and businesses of Burlington with the right information before them surely can achieve the same. We have at least three very serious issues with Council decisions that are not compliant with the well-being and best interests requirements of such decisions that we will be moving forward on in 2023 in the hope of garnering such support.

  • Penny Hersh

    This information is very informative. If I understand correctly it is left to Council to decide what it will do with the recommendations made in the Integrity Commission’s report. In fact, should Council wish to do absolutely NOTHING it can. So I ask the question – WHAT is the purpose of this Commission?

    Up until now I was under the misguided impression that Council had to follow the recommendations. This is not so.

    CAN council decide to go into “closed session” to discuss a report provided by the Integrity Commission? If the answer is YES then the public will NEVER know what the report indicated. Does anyone know the answer to this question?

    Presently it seems that 2 councillor issues might or will be brought to the Integrity Commission. At the very least the residents are entitled to know why and what was in the report presented to council.

    I also found it interesting that the Integrity Commission’s practice regarding public apologies is never recommended, yet this Mayor altered the agenda items and insisted on a public apology by Councillor Stolte, at a point in the meeting that would give council members an opportunity to ask questions. To her credit Councillor Stolte left the meeting. Councillor Stolte did come back and issued the apology in her closing remarks.

    One needs to question why the demand for this apology ever took place.

    • You are not alone Penny. 99.9% of those who took an interest in this subject believed the same thing, Why else would taxpayers be paying for Integrity Commissioners and Ombudsmen if it was not to protect the taxpayer. We figured this out in 2014 after the Amberley Gavel (Ombudsman Report). Gary Scobie was part of this complaint and registered his disappointment in the process. Instead of submitting a report to Council as recommended by the Ombudsman The Clerk’s office submitted a report to Committee and then Council that everyone believed properly summarized the Ombudsman report that was attached but was not as received by the city! The sumamry report did not refer to an issue the Ombudsman had with minutes as compared to the requirement in 239(7) of the Municipal Act. Our efforts to get this addressed always failed.

      Our audits have identified many more issues from that date on to the present date with non-compliance and we intend to deal with this in 2023. It was one of our priorities of Anne`s election which you know how that went. You could have accessed the minutes of the December, 2014 meeting yourself up to just after 2022 nominations opened. Now you have to ask for them from staff. Something we are also addressing in 2023 hopefully with support from the community in terms of petitions we can see these issues put to bed as they should have been after we paid Amberley Gavel whatever it cost us, some 18 years ago!

      Minutes that do not represent Council decision making is a very serious issue. Listening to webcast and checking against the minutes has been a very, very lengthy process which was far from finished when the webcasts disappeared. I was responsible for minuting multiple committees at a large public corporation. I can tell you I would not have kept my job very long if my minute’s had 5% of the issues we have identified with those of the city.