Municipal Affairs Minister Rebecca Schulz is threatening to fire members of Chestermere City Council if they continue to overrule decisions of the provincially-appointed umpire appointed to watch over the embattled council.
In a Nov. 22 letter from Schulz to Chestermere Mayor Jeff Colvin and his council, obtained by Postmedia, Schulz said if the city continues to act on council decisions made by Acting Administrator Douglas Lagore — who serves as the county seal of approval is not allowed. any decision the council makes — “further actions may be considered.”
She points to a section of the Municipal Government Act that sets out the possible approaches at her disposal – specifically noting her power to remove any councilor or top administrator.
“This section of the MGA offers me a range of enforcement options, including the possibility of dismissing one or more members of the council, or the chief administrative officer(s), if the city does not act properly on the decisions of the Official Administrator not. ,” the letter reads.
The strongly worded letter is a firm retribution for the mayor’s recent moves to challenge decisions made by the official administrator, who was appointed in September by Schulz’s municipal affairs portfolio predecessor Ric McIver. At the time, McIver cited increasing “dysfunction” among the group of elected officials — who are still the subject of an ongoing provincial governance investigation — as the reason for the rare appointment.
The county’s retaliation comes two weeks after Colvin took a public stance at a Nov. 8 council meeting against decisions made by the official administrator to overturn several resolutions tabled by Mayor Colvin during two heated September meetings. to ignore.
Provincial administrator cites ‘interference’ from Chestermere’s mayor
Provincial administrator quashes Chestermere mayor’s motions to investigate three councillors
County submits management investigation findings to Chestermere
Chestermere accidentally releases information about private residents through presentation by mayor
Province installs administrator in Chestermere due to council’s increasing ‘dysfunction’: minister
Chestermere sanctions, issues cease and desist letter to board member
‘It’s a witch hunt’: Chestermere to investigate three councilors over conduct allegations
The since-struck resolutions targeted councilors Shannon Dean, Sandy Johal-Watt and Ritesh Narayan with more than 100 code of conduct inquiries — in part for their complaints to the province that prompted municipal affairs to begin its investigation into the city in May — and were accepted by the mayor and his majority voting bloc consisting of councilors Mel Foat, Stephen Hanley and Blaine Funk. The resolutions also passed the council. Narayan by removing him from city committees and admonishing him with a cease and desist over comments he made to Postmedia about the numerous conduct investigations, which he called a “witch hunt.”
In documents detailing his reasoning for tossing six resolutions, Lagore cited numerous concerns, including that the mayor’s presentation of the conduct allegations — which had previously come under fire because of concerns about privacy violations — amounted to interference in the county’s ongoing investigation of the city. Still, the majority faction of the council approved the mayor’s motions to challenge Lagore’s edict by having the city’s attorneys present a “more detailed review” of the decisions to the council.
In her letter, Schulz said she expects the city to be “accountable to the public and transparent” by publishing both her letter and Lagore’s rationale reports on its website. The minister said all these items will be published on the provincial government’s website to “ensure the greatest transparency”.
“I trust the city will make addressing this situation a priority,” Schulz said.
While Schulz’s letter was sent on November 22, the documents are not currently published on the City of Chestermere or Government of Alberta websites.
Neither the city of Chestermere, Mayor Colvin nor Minister Schulz’s office responded to Postmedia’s request for comment on Thursday.
As first reported by Postmedia, the county has been closely monitoring Chestermere Council since February, when councilors Dean, Johal-Watt and Narayan complained about multiple irregularities in the city’s government, most of which related to Mayor Colvin and the other three council members. Their complaints prompted Municipal Affairs to undertake a preliminary review in March, leading to the introduction of the municipal inspection in May.
The Council got its first look at the results of this investigation early this month in a closed meeting with officials from Municipal Affairs. They have until December 9 to provide an answer to the province.
After that deadline, the report will be presented publicly and Minister Schulz is expected to give orders to the council for remediation as soon as the start of the new year. If those orders are not followed, council members and the city’s chief administrators could face further sanctions, including possible dismissal.
The official administrator is expected to remain with the city until at least the end of January.