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Municipal Affairs minister declines petition request to inspect Crossfield

After conducting a preliminary review earlier this year, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs has decided not to move ahead with an inspection into the Town of Crossfield.

After conducting a preliminary review earlier this year, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs has decided not to move ahead with an inspection into the Town of Crossfield.

In a letter to Crossfield Town council, Minister of Municipal Affairs Ric McIver said the Town’s recent turnover of the chief administrative officer, a byelection held on May 10 and the upcoming general election in October means the Province will not be investigating the Town further. McIver’s office had conducted a preliminary review of Crossfield's conduct this winter, interviewing residents, councillors and the municipality’s administrative staff.

“Municipal inspections are extraordinary measures and are not undertaken lightly,” he wrote. “While the review identified some concerns with respect to the governance and operation of the town, I understand there has recently been a turnover in the chief administrative officer position and that council has taken additional action to address personnel matters.”

McIver also noted the Town is still in the process of completing its 2019 Municipal Accountability Program, which addresses “municipal compliance with applicable legislative requirements” and allows his ministry to provide advisory support.

“In recognition of council’s actions to date, as well as acknowledging the May 2021 byelection and October 2021 general election, I will not be ordering an inspection at this time,” he said. 

Last fall, 743 Crossfield residents – more than 20 per cent of the town’s population – signed a petition requesting the Alberta government look into their grievances involving the municipality.

Crossfield resident and former councillor James Ginter said the petition came about after two Town council members resigned from their positions last summer. Former Deputy Mayor Liz Grace and Coun. Beth Gabriel tendered their resignations in June 2020, citing a dysfunctional and toxic relationship between council and the Town’s administration.

Crossfield’s former chief administrative officer at the time was Ken Bosman, who was released from his contract in February. Bosman has since sued the Town over a breach of contract.

Reached after the June 1 meeting, Ginter said he and other Crossfield residents were disappointed to learn the municipal inspection would not be going ahead.

“To me, it’s ludicrous because some of the allegations we had were basically of illegal wrongdoing, and we think it should be investigated and looked into, just so that it’s out there,” he said. “They’re just washing their hands of it because [most] of the participants will not be there come October, and most of them are gone right now. It’s rather disappointing.”

While he did not feel a municipal inspection was warranted, McIver did note in his letter the Town of Crossfield would likely benefit from participation in a voluntary Municipal Corporate Review (MCR). According to McIver, MCRs are cooperative efforts that would involve members of Municipal Affairs, council and Town administration. The review “would explore all areas of municipal operations,” according to McIver, including governance functions, financial management and fiscal processes.

“I encourage council to give consideration to requesting that Municipal Affairs undertake an MCR,” he wrote.

Town council approved the receipt of McIver’s letter for information at their regular meeting on June 1. When reached for comment after the meeting, the Town of Crossfield issued a statement to the Rocky View Weekly on June 3, attributed to Mayor Jo Tennant.

“We are pleased this issue has been resolved and look forward to continuing to work with Municipal Affairs on the yearly Municipal Accountability Program, already in progress,” she said.

Scott Strasser, AirdrieToday.com
Follow me on Twitter @scottstrasser19