Headline News By CBC News 910 Views

City of Ottawa appoints longtime public servant as new integrity commissioner

The City of Ottawa has appointed Karen Shepherd, a 30-year veteran of the federal public service who formerly served as lobbying commissioner, as the city's second ever integrity commissioner. 

In a news release sent Friday, the city said Shepherd will take office on Sept. 1 for one year, with an option to renew for a five-year term. She will replace Robert Marleau, who has occupied the position since its creation in 2012.

The integrity commissioner is an independent watchdog who reports directly to city council and provides oversight over councillors and local board members on matters related to ethics and lobbying.

"Over the span of her career, she worked in several departments and gained experience in policy, operational and social responsibility units," the release said. 

"She provided strategic, confidential and fearless advice to many including lobbyists, elected and senior public officials, and built strong and collaborative partnerships both inside and outside of government."

Shepherd has more than three decades of experience working in the federal public service, much of it in the field of ethics, the city said.

She was the first federal lobbying commissioner from 2009 to 2017. More recently, she was executive advisor to the deputy minister of health, and later ombudsman for Health Canada and the Public Health Agency before she retired in 2020. 

3 councillors recently reprimanded

The integrity commissioner's role has become more well known recently after a series of high-profile investigations into three Ottawa city councillors. Each was found to have violated the city's code of conduct.

Osgoode Coun. George Darouze was the first councillor Marleau found guilty after he tried to silence a woman who criticized him on social media during the 2018 municipal election by writing to her husband's boss, Ottawa's police chief at the time.

In 2020, Marleau released two damning reports that accused College ward Coun. Rick Chiarelli of inappropriate behaviour and harassment toward women following complaints about inappropriate and sexually charged behaviour in the workplace.

The findings prompted council to slap Chiarelli with three consecutive 90-day pay suspensions, the stiffest penalty available to council under municipal law. It also spurred the provincial government to re-examine the laws on being able to remove municipal politicians from office.

Last month, veteran Barrhaven Coun. Jan Harder resigned as chair of the powerful planning committee after an investigation by Marleau found she "tainted" the planning process by creating a perceived conflict of interest through her close relationship with a planning consultant and his daughter.