By Cole Parkinson
A former Municipal District of Taber councillor has raised some concerns with the new council.
During the M.D.’s annual general meeting held in Enchant on April 24, former Division 5 councillor, Bob Wallace, brought forward some issues he has with how current council has been running.
“I want to address a policy that was put in place last year, it is ‘council code of conduct’ and maybe you guys can all grade yourselves on this one. We heard today the staff and what a wonderful job they did and the job they’ve done in the past and continue to do. I’m going to ask directly now, in terms of unsanctioned meetings and how they continue to happen and the conveyance of confidential information at unsanctioned meetings and how they continue to happen and how it’s going to addressed in the future. Brian (Brewin), you’re going to have to address it,” said Wallace.
The council code of conduct, Bylaw 1909, was passed through council chambers in 2017 and was approved on July 11.
Wallace accused council of discussing issues outside of council chambers on numerous occasions.
“The unsanctioned meetings I’m talking about are meetings conducted on wing Wednesdays, thirsty Thursdays and lounges. I’ve never seen before in my seven years here so many closed session items at the M.D. where when the reporter is there you aren’t talking about stuff but so much information coming out of the lounges, wing Wednesdays and thirsty Thursdays. It’s just got to stop,” he added.
Since current council was elected in October 2017 there have been 12 regular council meetings and all but one have had an in-camera portion. In-camera is a legal term which means in private and when council goes into a closed session the meeting is then closed to the public due to the discussions being confidential.
“When you’re meeting with Vauxhall you have a council motion, a council motion for the meeting, a council motion for the approved agenda. When you’re meeting with Barnwell, the same thing, when you’re meeting with everybody else as a municipality, the same thing. But with the Town of Taber, a couple councillors get together and have a joint council meeting in the lounge.”
“Assuming they are quiet with their talks, but they’re not. They’re continually getting out into the public.”
With the council code of conduct, the bylaw states “council and council committee members shall not divulge confidential information to any person or group” under section Political Activity 9.2.
One particular issue Wallace has been made aware of is talks about the new fire hall in Taber.
Through the grapevine he has heard the M.D. may be joining together.
“Negotiations such as going together with the joint fire department in downtown Taber. What benefit is that going to be to the outlying fire departments to join into that agreement? None, it’s a cancer that would just kill the volunteer communities that we have,” said Wallace. “You look at the cost of that building, if you’re going to go together, it’s going to have to be built to the size that they are proposing and don’t just suppose that maybe the Parkside Manor or the United Church, that they’re proposing to knock down, is going to have something to say about that. Maybe we’ll have to rebuild them a building but these negotiations in the lounges have just got to stop.”
Another accusation Wallace came with was current council talking about M.D. staff in public.
“Council code of conduct says it’s not allowed and maybe you’ll have to start looking at that. Another item on there is not to publicly speak about employees, maybe you can all judge yourself on how you’ve been doing over the last six, seven months,” he continued.
In the bylaw section Relationship with Staff, 8.1.2 states “councillors and council committee members shall avoid making any public statements about any Municipal District of Taber staff member.”
“When you go to the council meeting the next time and you’re in the staff coffee room, why don’t you look at the wall up there. If you’re in a hazardous or unfriendly situation you are supposed to remove yourself from that and talk to your supervisor. So where is staff supposed to go when the unhealthy comments are coming from the council over the last six or seven months. Spilling out through the lounges,” added Wallace.
“On the abusive nature towards staff, that needs to stop.”
With the current local state of emergency due to overland flooding, Wallace made a claim one councillor had not been under the same rules as everyone else.
“We’ve had a major flood event, there’s going to be enforcement orders handed out, everybody is supposed to be treated the same. How are you going to tell people that they’re responsible to uphold the law and be a law-abiding citizens when a certain portion, one individual, has enforcement orders going over a number of years which continually get looked at to be abolished. You guys are going to have to address that one yourselves.”
While council heard Wallace’s concerns, M.D. Reeve Brian Brewin questioned the validity of the claims of the enforcement orders and discussing matters outside of council meetings.
“I actually find that strange, I haven’t heard that before, Bob. Certainly as far as wing Wednesdays, I’m not sure any council members have gone to that,” said Brewin.
Wallace finished his statement with some harsh words for council.
“I believe there have, they also call it beer league. And when I think about it, that’s a good term for this council, is beer league.”