Former judge, law prof to provide oversight to city of Calgary

University of Calgary law professor Alice Woolley has been appointed Calgary’s first ethics adviser. Woolley takes the role alongside Allen Sulatycky, a former associate chief justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta, who has been appointed as the city’s independent integrity commissioner.

“This is an important step forward to improve openness, transparency, and accountability at city hall,” said Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi in an announcement yesterday. “Professor Woolley and Mr. Sulatycky will provide excellent oversight and support for city council, and I know they will serve Calgarians well in their roles.”

Woolley, an outspoken academic who writes about legal ethics and professionalism, also has a background in administrative law. Her new role will be helping city councillors navigate the legality and ethics of their individual actions, she says.

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“City council discharges a statutory function. They have a specific role that they occupy and there are things they should do in that role and things they shouldn’t do in that role,” says Woolley. “My job is just to help them navigate that boundary to the extent there are issues that they’re worried about.

“It’s not about helping them be good, upstanding citizens of the city of Calgary; they’re more than capable of doing that on their own. It’s just a question of in this role, there are things you ought to do and things you ought not do, and sometimes, like in all roles, the difference between those is not always obvious,” Woolley adds.

If complaints about members of city council can be resolved by an apology or via mediation, it would fall into Woolley’s role. Sulatycky would handle more complex complaints requiring full investigations and hearings.

Woolley will remain a full-time professor of law at the University of Calgary.

“I’m not leaving; I’m still going to be at the university and I’m still going to be writing things that get under the skin of people,” she says with a chuckle.

“It will be complicated to make it work time-wise but it’s not taking away my university job and I’d never have taken it if it was,” she adds.

According to Nenshi’s office, Sulatycky will be the first city integrity commissioner in western Canada. A former MP for Rocky Mountains, he previously served on various House of Commons committees and as parliamentary secretary to both the ministers of Energy, Mines and Resources and Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

Sulatycky was appointed to the Court’s Queen’s Bench of Alberta in 1982. He later became a judge of the appeal courts in Alberta and Nunavut before his appointment as associate chief justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta. Sulatycky retired as a judge in 2013.

By June, Sulatycky and Woolley are to provide city council with a report with enhanced definition and scope of their roles. They’re also to present a plan to transition responsibility for the city’s whistle-blower program (as it relates to council members) from the city auditor’s office to the newly created integrity and ethics office.

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