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Region one step closer to its own ombudsman

Recommendation set to come before council by end of the month; appointment of integrity commissioner has been delayed until September

By Graeme McNaughton/The Oshawa Express

The next step in appointing a regional ombudsman will come before council’s summer break.

This is according to Matt Gaskell, the region’s commissioner of corporate services, who says that a report on the new position will come before councillors before the June 29, council’s final meeting before the summer recess.

‘We’ve received submissions, and they are in the process…of being evaluated by the evaluation team. I’ll be bringing a report back to regional council with a recommendation for the appointment of an ombudsman by the end of June,” he says.

Regional councillors approved the hiring of a regional ombudsman at it Dec. 16 meeting following the passage of the province’s Public Sector and MPP Accountability and Transparency Act which, while giving the provincial ombudsman’s office the power to investigate municipalities, gave local and regional municipalities the option to appoint their own ombudsman. The regional ombudsman would investigate complaints from members of the public over decisions made by council.

The region’s request for proposals (RFP) closed on May 24, and received three proposals.

However, another position to be created as a result of new provincial rules – an integrity commissioner – will not be coming along as quickly.

“The integrity commissioner one has dragged on, unfortunately. I’d hoped to be able to do them both at the same time, but it’s lagging a bit behind the ombudsman one,” Gaskell says.

“I’ll have an information report by the end of June, and I’ll be bringing that one for the first meeting in September for a recommendation for an appointment of the integrity commissioner.”

Passed at the same December meeting, the motion passed by councillors approved a code of conduct for regional council, and the creation of an integrity commissioner to investigate potential violations.

Gaskell says the delay in bringing the integrity commissioner appointment forward can be attributed to issues in getting the RFP out for tender. Currently, there is no RFP listed on the region’s contract tenders page advertising an integrity commissioner.

“These things are detailed. I’m a little disappointed that, frankly, I really wanted them both at the same time,” he says.

“There was input from the area municipalities on both RFPs. There’s the typical processes that we go through to develop and draft and refine an RFP, and we were focusing on getting the ombudsman one done first and getting it on the street. It was organizational inertia – we couldn’t get it out in time that we could get it back in time for the end of June.”