Chatham-Kent Appoints An Integrity Commissioner

Paul Watson. (BlackburnNews.com file photo courtesy of Paul Watson)

Paul Watson is Chatham-Kent’s first Integrity Commissioner.

If the name sounds familiar, it may be because Watson has a law office in Chatham. He says his experience as a lawyer and as a previous council member is what qualifies him for the position.

Watson says he’s been practicing law for over 30 years and previously spent 15 years on municipal council.

“It gives me a lot of knowledge and experience with respect to council matters,” says Watson.

As Integrity Commissioner Watson says his duties include answering questions and giving advice to councillors in regards to the code of conduct. It also involves taking in the public’s opinions or concerns about councillors.

“The process is pretty much complaint driven,” says Watson. “If someone in the community feels that a councilor has breached the code of conduct then they can contact me and it’s my job to investigate.”

Watson says the laws that deal with councilors are very narrow, so having an integrity commissioner helps clarify grey areas.

“The conflict of interest act only deals with situations where you’ve (a councillor) benefitted financially from your office,” says Watson. “The Integrity Commissioner can cover a broad range of complaints that might come in with respect to the conduct of council.”

As for why Chatham-Kent has decided to have an Integrity Commissioner in the first place, Watson says it has nothing to do with the conduct displayed in other municipalities like London. He says larger municipalities (like Toronto) have an Integrity Commissioner in place, so the municipality thought Chatham-Kent should have one as well.

Watson will serve as Integrity Commissioner for the next two years and will be paid $400 for each day that he’s needed or $200 for every half day.

With file from Jake Kislinsky.