Should London, ON hire an Integrity Commissioner?

According to an article yesterday’s London Free Press, the controversial question of whether or not London should hire an Integrity Commissioner, was presented to The Urban League of London.  The full article can be found at:

So, what, exactly does an Integrity Commissioner do?  Succinctly put, the Integrity Commissioner would oversee London City Counsel to ensure that its officials comply with the municipal code of conduct.  The Commissioner would have the power to issue sanctions against offending officials in order to enforce that code of conduct.  Given the recent issues facing Mayor Joe Fontana, as well as the London City Counsel in general, it is no surprise that the topic of ethics and integrity are coming to the forefront.  

As lawyers, ethics and codes of conduct permeate virtually every facet of our profession.  No doubt, we have all enjoyed the “ribbing” of a good “lawyer joke”.  In fact, I know of very few other professions that bear the brunt of so many cynical, but yet, very funny, remarks.  That being said, lawyers in every jurisdiction are bound by some form of ethical code of conduct: in Ontario, the Law Society of Upper Canada enforces the rules of Professional Conduct; in Michigan and Illinois, the respective State Bars play identical roles in enforcing their rules of Professional Conduct.  Whether it is a Law Society or State Bar, these organizations have the necessary power and have developed the requisite procedures to ensure that its members comply with these rules.

As far as the City of London is concerned, an argument can certainly be made that her local politicians answer to her citizenry, and that an independent commissioner is unnecessarily redundant.  But, the response that London’s citizens are only able to take indirect action and are only able to act at election times, is equally as compelling.  Given recent history surrounding the members of the London City Counsel, as well as the scathing number of complaints and declining level of confidence, perhaps hiring an Integrity Commissioner on a temporary basis, may not be such a bad idea?

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