By Stephen Dafoe
Sturgeon County – County Council voted unanimously to a motion from Councillor Karen Shaw for Council to seek the assistance of governance consultants to get County Council back on track to working together as an effective and functional governance body.
Shaw’s notice of motion, presented Jan. 10, requested “That County Council directs Administration to research and recommend one or more expert governance consultants and a suggested program that will ensure council is equipped with the necessary knowledge and tools to become an effective and functional governance body; and that the cost of their governance support activity is charged to Council’s General Training and Professional Development Budget.”
Councillor Shaw said she was motivated to make the motion after reading a MorinvilleNews.com editorial that called out County Council for being dysfunctional. Shaw said she had felt things were improving since the editorial, published Oct. 11, but decorum at the Dec. 13 meeting of Council, and a subsequent MorinvilleNews.com article on the meeting, made her aware things had in fact not improved.
Reading from a letter to council, entered into the record Jan. 10, Shaw said, ““We have a choice that what we are doing is not working or we continue with our dysfunctional ways.” The councillor added if her motion was not unanimous she would be forced to go to Municipal Affairs to have things set right.
In discussing the motion, Councillor David Kluthe said he was in support of the idea and expressed his belief the past few months had been an embarrassment to the County in the press and to County residents. “I think it’s time this comes to an end and we get this county getting back to the way it’s supposed to be,” Kluthe said, adding his accusations four councillors were meeting in private with the other three excluded. Kluthe did not identify who the four councillors were.
Councillor Tom Flynn said he was also in support of Councillor Shaw’s motion to get County Council back on track. “I think it’s a good move so we function better,” he said. “I don’t see any downside to it.”
Mayor Don Rigney said he felt Shaw’s motion addressed a significant issue and that he would support it, but he questioned Shaw’s bringing the matter to the table now instead of three months ago when the question of Council’s functionality were raised.
The mayor proceeded to raise the matter of the Alberta Utilities Commission’s Heartland Transmission Line hearings and how the final statement on the County’s behalf had not been in line with Council’s wishes. Shaw immediately called a point of order stating the matter was not germane to her motion. Rigney proceeded to challenge Shaw’s point of order and a vote on his continuing his discussion was opposed 4-3, Councillors McGeachy and Kluthe supporting his continuance. “I’ve been silenced again,” Rigney said after the vote, adding he felt Shaw’s threat to take the matter to Municipal Affairs was bullying.
Flynn said the interjection on the AUC hearing was losing the objective of what the motion was about. He agreed the motion should have come earlier. “It may be late – I agree,” he said. “We should have done this some time ago, but I think it’s important we get this done.”
Councillor Shaw pointed out the reintroduction of the AUC topic and the split vote on the point of order was proof of the need for her motion to be passed. “I think this just emphasising how we are in dire need of some intervention,” she said, adding the motion really required the commitment of all seven members of Council to the process in order for it to work.
Rigney continued to protest being silenced. “I feel like I’m in a relationship where adultery is going on and I’m supposed to put up with this,” the mayor said. ““I find that odious and offensive.” The mayor went on to express his view the reason council is dysfunctional is because items are being added to the agenda last minute or votes are being held at 8 o’clock at night. The latter comment was in reference to his displeasure that the decision to hire Peter Tarnawsky as Interim Chief Administrative Officer occurred after an evening public hearing. At that vote, Mayor Rigney and Councillor Kluthe left the meeting under protest, leaving Councillor McGeachy as the single opposing vote. Rigney had previously expressed his belief the meeting was illegal.
Despite the protestations, Council unanimously approved Shaw’s motion, giving Administration the authority to research options for consultants to assist Sturgeon County Council in their desire to be “an effective and functional governance body.”