The Province and Municipal Affairs have spoken and found that The City of Chestermere is being managed improperly and irregularly
After complaints and concerns from citizens and three current councillors, aimed at the mayor and remaining council members, a lengthy investigation occurred. A 200-page inspection report investigated multiple issues and concerns with the current mayor and council.
The province has issued that a set of 12 directives will need to be completed and failure to do so by the City of Chestermere and the current council could result in their removal by the province.
There were over 300 people in attendance for the announcement on Wednesday night. The public heard from a third-party inspector, George Cuff, who led the investigation. He explained in detail that he found a deep divide among the current council and that the city has had issues with staff retention since the new council was elected.
"During the time that we did the review, approximately 60 people left in a year," Cuff said.
Breaking that down further Cuff stated that 4 retired, 17 left voluntarily, and 39 left involuntarily. Minister of Municipal Affairs, Rebecca Schulz, was also in attendance at the meeting and laid out in detail 12 directives that the council must complete with specified due dates to get the current situation within the council under control.
"They (the council) were new to the business of municipal governance when the problems started, but at the same time, the problems have been going on for 18 months now and enough is enough. We need to address them," said Schulz.
During a question and answer session after the initial presentation, one resident simply asked why the government was wasting time with directives, and why not just get rid of the current mayor.
Schulz explained that under the municipal governance act simply removing a member of municipal government is not easy, despite what some residents may think.
"This is not to be a punitive process. This is to be corrective in nature," Schulz said.
The directives presented to the council include but are not limited to the following:
- Reviewing the procedural bylaws and providing an action plan
- Hiring an auditing firm to submit outstanding financial statements for 2021 and 2022
- Submitting all code of conduct complaints to the province
- Submitting to the province all municipal land sales since October 2021
The 12 directives put forward by the province Schulz feels, are what is needed and should not have been unexpected.
"I would say the directives we've put forward are not onerous. They are things that are expected of all municipalities from across Alberta."
Residents were heard applauding and audibly agreeing with the directives outlined by Minister Schulz but were not pleased with the timeline as some directives would not need to be completed until 2024.
Residents on hand also questioned the process of a recall When questioned on that process Minister Schulz stated the citizens have the ability to petition for a recall of an elected official 18 months after the official has been elected.
"For a council that had been elected in October of 2021, the recall process could begin in late April of 2023."
Three members of the council were present for the report, but the mayor watched online from city hall.
The City of Chestermere issued a statement Wednesday night:
"The mayor and council will be reviewing the recommendations and the directives of the minister carefully over the very near term. As recommended by both George Cuff and the minister, the mayor and council will be consulting immediately with legal counsel regarding the report and the directives of the minister," the statement read.
"There is some initial concern regarding some of the findings in the Cuff report, the process by which the report was arrived at, the recommendations in the report and the directives of the minister – legal counsel will be reviewing options, although at this point no decision has been made regarding any actions and no decisions will be made without due consideration.
"The city is committed to continuing to provide good government to all of its residents by being a positive environment, a functioning legislative and administrative body and a competent and effective municipal government in order to properly serve its citizens and the public at large."
The inspection report as stated by Minister Schulz, must be available online by the City of Chestermere and in print, if requested by a resident, in addition, the province will make the inspection report available online at alberta.ca/chestermere.
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