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Don't drink and meet: Port Moody expands councillors' code of conduct

Port Moody was the first community in the province to adopt a code of conduct for councillors.
Port Moody councillors approved several revisions to its code of conduct on Tuesday, Feb. 27.

A new code of conduct for Port Moody councillors will clarify who can file a complaint and how it will be investigated, as well as implement a time limit for complaints to be brought forward.

But it should also include a provision prohibiting the consumption of alcohol or any other substance that can cause impairment during council meetings, councillors said Tuesday, Feb. 27, at their latest meeting.

The need for an alcohol ban was triggered by a furor that erupted on local social media channels accusing Mayor Meghan Lahti of ordering alcoholic beverages when she was attending several committee meetings virtually on Jan. 16 while on vacation in the Galapagos.

Lahti refuted the allegations at Tuesday’s meeting and supported the ban on alcohol consumption during meetings.

Port Moody was the first community in B.C. to implement a code of conduct bylaw for councillors. It was proposed by Lahti and approved by council in July, 2018.

“It puts in place very clear parameters of expectation,” said Lahti, who was a councillor at the time.

The bylaw was modelled after a template used in Alberta, which mandates all municipalities have codes of conduct in place.

Port Moody’s code requires councillors to “act honestly and, in good faith, serve the welfare and interests of the municipality as a whole.”

It also expects them to treat each other, city employees and members of the public with “courtesy, dignity and respect,” along with being free “from undue influence” while making decisions “with an open mind that is capable of persuasion.”

The revisions approved by council Tuesday include language formalizing conduct complaints be filed in writing to the mayor and city manager within six months of the alleged breach. If the mayor is the subject of a complaint it can be referred to the acting mayor or city manager.

They then have 30 days to attempt a resolution before the complaint is sent to an investigator whose findings are then forwarded to council for a decision on any sanction.

The code of conduct now also applies to councillors’ management of their personal and official social media accounts.

Angie Parnell, Port Moody’s general manager of corporate services, said the need to update the councillors’ code of conduct was triggered by a review conducted by the mayor and former city manager Tim Savoie, who recently retired.

She said it was necessary to include specific parameters and procedures for the handling of complaints because it “takes time and resources to determine the validity of a complaint.”

Coun. Kyla Knowles said it’s prudent the bylaw be revisited and revised.

“At the end of the day, we want the most effective code of conduct possible,” she said.

"We don’t want it to become weaponized by anyone.”