Grimsby council referred a report, regarding a whistleblower policy for town staff employees, back to staff at the committee of the whole meeting on March 22.
The report was presented to council by Dan Rummo, the interim human resources manager for the Town of Grimsby, and policy expert and legal counsel Dasha Peregoudova. Per the report, currently the only mechanisms for reporting noncompliance of the code is through the office of human resources or the chief administrative officer (CAO), as there is currently a whistleblower policy within the town’s code of conduct.
However, the purpose of this report was to see that policy “amended to remove the whistleblower policy and create it as a standalone policy,” as per a council decision in August 2019. Furthermore “to include the option and procedure for anonymous reporting; that the noncompliance (whistle-blowing) procedure be amended to include an option for an employee, or Council, to request a third-party expert to assist or undertake investigations where deemed appropriate.” However, the new standalone policy would still see the CAO as responsible for dealing with whistleblowers.
Staff presented council with two options to vote on; “Option One (1): That as per Council resolution C-20-30 a stand alone, employee based Whistleblower Policy with both an internal and third-party reporting mechanism and an anonymous reporting option, with associated service provider costs be approved.
Option Two (2): That a stand alone, employee based Whistleblower Policy with an internal reporting mechanism be approved as recommended.”
Majority of the council voted for option one. During deliberations, councillor Leanne Vardy asked if “all staff” had been consulted regarding policy and its respective options, to which Rummo replied the policy had been shared with the corporate leadership team, among “staff ourselves,” human resource experts legal counsel, but not all town staff.
Vardy said this concerned her, as not all staff had been consulted and in the case that the CAO is the issue, this could potentially prevent staff from reporting their problems. After some more discussion, a motion was put on the floor by councillor Dorothy Bothwell to refer the report back to staff.
The motion was carried, with Bothwell, Freake, Kadwell, Sharpe, Vardy, and Mayor Jordan voting yes, and Ritchie and Vaine voting no.
According to the report, currently seven (58 per cent) of Niagara municipalities have an active whistleblower policy, 12 (100 per cent) are employee-based whistleblower policies, three (25 per cent) of Niagara municipalities have an anonymous reporting option, with only an internal process and zero have a third-party reporting mechanism.