Questions code of conduct

Re. David Buckna's letter Step down from RDCO (Castanet, May 13)

I concluded my letter (referenced above) by asking, "Isn't the Regional District of Central Okanagan an external committee?" I've since learned it is not.

The City of Kelowna's council code of conduct was developed through a series of reports to council beginning in March, 2023. The distinction between committees, task forces, agencies and the regional district board was discussed during former Kelowna city clerk Stephen Fleming's presentation on Sept. 11, 2023, just before council adopted the code.

Fleming said he expected the code, should it be adopted, would evolve and change as it’s interpreted, so he didn’t see it as a static document, but one that would change and be amended as it was used. He said the section that talks about stepping aside from committees and task forces, does not apply to the regional district board.

“The regional district board is a bit of a different statutory beast, if I can put it that way, and with city council having the number of required seats on it, and a need for alternates, it wasn’t felt that that would be something that should fit into the policy should anyone choose to find themselves in that situation,” said Fleming.

At the May 13 afternoon council meeting, Coun. Ron Cannan asked for clarification that Coun. Wooldridge can still keep his seat on the RDCO board. City clerk Laura Bentley said that was correct

“The regional board appointments are made by resolution of council, and it’s a statutory obligation of council, and so the code of conduct does not essentially limit that statutory responsibility of council,” she said.

“The reference to external committees, task forces or agencies is essentially other committees of council or other agencies that members of council may be appointed to by the mayor…The provisions around a leave of absence were written sort of recognizing what responsibilities of individual members of council and what the responsibility is of council as a whole, and so without limiting that decision of council in terms of a council resolution for appointments to the board, that’s how it’s addressed through the code."

Cannan asked what if a council, in the future, wanted to identify the regional district board as one of the committees a councillor wasn't allowed to be on if also a candidate for a political party. Bentley said that would be separate from the code.

From Sept. 11, 2023 to the present, why haven't any councillors put forward a motion, separate from the code of conduct—stating a councillor would have to step down from the regional board if becoming a candidate for a political party?

I also wonder when members of council and city staff first learned Wooldridge was considering putting his name forward as a potential (provincial) candidate.

In 2019, Kelowna’s former council, led by then-mayor Colin Basan, discussed the topic of a council code of conduct. Before that, as early as 2017, the topic of a code of conduct was discussed.

A “loophole” is a technicality that gives someone the chance to avoid having to do something, without violating a policy, law, bylaw, or piece of legislation.

To those who follow Kelowna municipal politics closely, do you think "loophole" applies here?

David Buckna, Kelowna

(Editor's note: The code of conduct states a council member running for elected office outside of a local government should consider requesting a leave of absence from council once the writ is dropped for that election to avoid conflicts of interest or perceived conflicts of interest.)

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