On April 30, we attempted to bring forward a notice of motion to develop a new council policy, the Chief Administrative Officer Hiring Policy. Our motion supplied enough detail to serve as the framework for the policy and left little room for misinterpretation. It suggested the policy follows best practices as outlined by Municipal Affairs; and, incorporates feedback from the County’s legal counsel, and the Alberta Ombudsman.
In what can only be seen as a “made in Rocky View” solution, before the notice of motion could be introduced, Deputy Reeve Schule moved to have it removed from the agenda. When asked why, Schule stated administration was already working on it, so the motion was redundant. Since there was no previous resolution from council asking administration to do the work, and no record of the policy being stewarded by or through Council’s Policy Review Committee, his assertion was questioned.
Reeve Greg Boehlke then claimed he had spoken with the CAO and indicated it would be brought to council some time in the future. When reminded it is only council as a whole, not any one councillor, that can direct administration, Boehlke promptly shut down all debate and called the question. At which point, our notice of motion was removed from the agenda by a vote of 6-3, with Boehlke, Schule, Couns. Kim McKylor, Mark Kamachi, Kevin Henn and Jerry Gautreau supporting what was a completely unprecedented hijacking of process.
Using the fact that a motion may be redundant to remove it from the agenda is unparalleled. This March, as part of the discussion of her notice of motion, McKylor made a motion directing administration to explore a County-wide recreation model. When it was pointed out administration was already doing so and was on the verge of completion, McKylor’s motion was not thrown out, it was supported unanimously.
So, what was the real need to quash our notice of motion? Typically, if councillors don’t agree with a motion, they just vote against it – they don’t stop it from being debated. The only plausible explanation is that the majority on council found it embarrassing council had not given any direction regarding the CAO hiring policy. They may also have felt supporting the motion would somehow imply they had done something wrong in the first place.
As you may recall, last December, council finalized hiring its CAO, bringing to conclusion a process some councillors believed was highly questionable. Because of flaws in the process, four of us hired independent legal counsel and sent a letter to Municipal Affairs outlining our concerns. Council later learned some Rocky View residents also sent a similar letter to the Alberta Ombudsman. Responses to both letters recommended council should create a CAO hiring policy, as soon as possible. Exactly what our notice of motion tried to accomplish.
We completely recognize in a democracy, majority rules. However, when that majority places its own interests above the people as a whole, it becomes the ‘tyranny of the majority.’ Good governance requires a respect for the spirit of democracy and healthy debate, not censorship and manipulated discussion.
Kevin Hanson, Crystal Kissel and Samanntha Wright
Rocky View County Councillors