Governance and Municipal Management

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Good governance and good management are both imperative for all municipalities and public sector clients. DD West LLP has a strong knowledge base in the field of municipal law and has a fundamental understanding of the municipal law from Ontario to British Columbia. DD West LLP utilizes its extensive resources to assist our clients to achieve the best results for their establishments.

The primary role of a municipal council and its councillors is that of leadership. Proper guidance for the management staff of a municipality is crucial to the municipality operating in an effective and efficient manner.

As part of our governance services to you, we can provide advice on:

  • The powers of a municipal government and the options it has to run its operations and the scope of their legislative authority
  • The options available to a municipal government to attain its goals and mandates
  • How to handle conflicts within a council and between a council and its staff
  • Establishing new entities, such as utility corporations and inter-municipal organizations
  • Potential conflicts of interest and disqualification issues
  • Election issues
  • Municipal borrowing
  • Municipal lending, grant programs, and grant agreements
  • Purchases and sales of assets and personal property
  • Independent contractor and service agreements
  • Service/supply agreements
  • Operating agreements
  • Management agreements
  • Public-private partnerships (P3s)
  • Employment and Labour assessment
  • Property tax assessment
  • Tax sales
  • Environmental enforcement

Governance v. Management

Governance is:

  • knowing what tasks should be done
  • creating the policies for the municipality
  • to oversee the running of the municipality

Management is:

  • performing or implementing the tasks to be done
  • implementing the policies in the daily running of the municipality
  • perform or delegate the tasks required to run the municipality

Powers of a Municipality

Municipalities obtain their powers from provincial legislation. Some provinces provide municipalities with broad powers while others provide a more narrow approach to powers given. However, all municipalities have basic purposes to:

  • provide a good government to manage the municipality
  • provide necessary services to inhabitants of the municipality
  • attempt to provide desirable services to inhabitants of the municipality
  • create a safe and economically stable community for the inhabitants

Ethics and Codes of Conducts

Good governance goes hand in hand with good ethics. Traits of honesty, openness, good faith, and fairness must all be present in order for a municipality to operate in an ethical manner.

There are ways available to promote ethical behaviour in municipalities. They include:

  • Establishing a code of conduct for councillors
  • Establishing a code of conduct for employees
  • Ongoing education
  • Establishing a dedicated ethics person within the municipality who will provide education to councillors and employees and who will also establish a complaint process for any complaints received
  • Managing how lobbyists are permitted to act before council

Our lawyers have knowledge of various codes of conduct that relate to both elected and non-elected members of municipalities. Our office has conducted presentations on Manitoba’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and can assist you with establishing processes to promote ethical behaviour within your municipality.

Role of a Councillor

Councillors are expected to make decisions on matters relating to: budgets, daily running of the municipality, development within the municipality, and the future growth of the municipality. These decisions relate to the "governance” aspect of running a municipality. They create the policies and basis upon which the staff of the municipality will operate the municipality. Councillors execute their powers by way of by-laws and resolutions made at meetings of council. A good Councillor will:

  • Be accessible to constituents
  • Be aware of and listen to concerns of constituents within his/her ward and within the whole of the municipality; be a "good communicator”
  • Help to mitigate complaints received and to pass those complaints on to the head of council
  • Learn how to manage the use of media to provide information to the public but to understand the role of media is to "obtain a story”
  • Act in a professional, courteous, and respectful manner
  • Be ethical, unbiased, accountable for actions
  • Be knowledgeable and organized
  • Be open to new ideas and willing to learn
  • Be adaptable and willing to change his/her vision in order to protect the municipality’s interests
  • Know his/her role and respect the role of others

Role of Municipal Staff

Municipal staff members implement the day-to-day operations of the municipality. These actions are overseen by a manager or chief administrative officer who implements the management aspect of the municipality. The hiring of competent, knowledgeable, and efficient staff is imperative. Often the staff presents the first impression or "face” of the municipality. Staff must be courteous and responsive when performing their duties.

As the staff members of the municipality will have the most contact with the public, it is advisable for municipalities to establish a Code of Conduct for its employees. This Code would be reviewed and signed by all employees and establishes, in part, how an employee will represent the municipality. The use of a Code will also be of assistance to ensure that any conflicts of interest or perceived conflicts of interest are handled in a proper manner.

We can assist you with the preparation of employment contracts, employee policies, and employee codes of conduct.

Conflicts of Interest

Most provinces have legislation regarding conflicts of interest by local government members. The legislation exists to prevent corruption and the abuse of power by elected parties. Conflicts, whether real or perceived, can be damaging both to the municipality and to the councillor involved. If you have even the slightest hesitation about whether a conflict exists, you should seek legal advice on the matter. Many reputations have been negatively affected by a failure to declare a conflict, or possible perceived conflict, just because the elected official personally felt there was no conflict. In order to protect the public and encourage faith in democracy and elected officials, conflict legislation is becoming more and more widely applied and more cases are being put forward for the determination of the courts.