An item that addressed whether or not Rocky View County (RVC) council would withdraw an appeal against three previously sanctioned councillors will have to wait, as it was dealt with in a closed session with no arising motion on July 20.
According to Reeve Daniel Henn, Couns. Samanntha Wright, Crystal Kissel, and Kevin Hanson had to recuse themselves from voting on the matter at council’s most recent meeting, as they are the three councillors involved with the appeal.
Henn also said council failed to realize initially that the councillors could not speak to the item, which meant it could not carry on as a normal business item as a part of the July 20 meeting agenda.
“It was news to me before the meeting,” Henn said. “They did have some comments prepared, but the procedural bylaw, the Municipal Government Act and all of that say they can’t speak to the motion.”
Henn said what the councillors had prepared could not be brought up, which led to Coun. Al Schule bringing a motion forward to discuss the item in a closed session. He added council will have to deal with the motion to appeal at a later date.
After the meeting, Schule said when he moved for council to head into a closed session, he hoped they could sort the item out so it would no longer be an issue.
“It caught me off guard because I thought we were going to have a discussion with nine councillors,” he said. “We were all trying to figure out where we were going with this. I sure hope we can sort this out. I want to get this stuff behind us so everyone can move on.”
Schule added that dealing with these items proves to be a no-win situation.
“I was hoping we would have council working together a little bit more, but I guess we'll have a new council soon enough,” he said.
Next time the item is brought forward, according to Henn, the councillors will have to communicate their messages through different means, as they will not be at all allowed to partake in the discussions for worries of pecuniary interest.
“I was unaware of the complete process, so it will have to be delayed,” he said. “I can’t say what the decision will be or what the councillors are going to say to the six unsanctioned councillors, but once that is done, we will bring it back.”
The delayed item comes after Coun. Crystal Kissel introduced a notice of motion during the July 6 meeting to withdraw council’s appeal of Kissel et al vs. Rocky View County, due to a backlog in the court system, the impending municipal election and other related reasons.
Kissel’s notice of motion refers to the County’s decision last July to appeal the verdict issued by Justice James Eamon to set aside sanctions previously imposed on on her, Hanson and Wright.
Two weeks after that verdict was announced, RVC council approved appealing Eamon's decision after council voted 7-2 in favour of directing County staff to proceed with the action. Kissel and Wright provided the sole votes against the motion, while Hanson said he was unclear at the time what council was voting on.
The sanctions were imposed on the three councillors after they were accused of breaching council’s Code of Conduct for submitting a letter to the editor to the Rocky View Weekly that the rest of council deemed used discourteous and disrespectful language. The letter claimed the County’s process for hiring former Chief Administrative Officer Al Hoggan was “flawed.” Hoggan has since left the position of CAO.
The sanctions were in effect for 13 months and required the three councillors to publicly apologize, restricted their ability to travel on behalf of and represent RVC, removed them from all council committees and bodies, decreased their remuneration by 30 per cent and limited their contact with County staff.
After Justice Eamon set the sanctions aside, the three councillors sued RVC for $96,000 in back pay in March 2021, arguing they should be reimbursed for the lost wages. The $32,000 being sought by each councillor reflects their reduced pay over the period they were sanctioned.
—With files from Scott Strasser/Rocky View Weekly