by Colin Smith
Gibbons Mayor Doug Horner has been stripped of much of his power to act for six months as a result of a decision to impose sanctions on him taken by the town council.
At the July 23 council meeting its six other members unanimously passed several motions that will limit the mayor’s roles and responsibilities for at least six months.
As a result Horner will no longer be able to act as the council’s spokesperson or chair meetings and his authority to act as a member of internal committees, boards and associations. He is required to stay away from the Town of Gibbons municipal offices except to pick up mail and council packages and limit his interaction with town staff.
The Deputy Mayor will chair council meetings and fulfill the official obligations and administrative responsibilities of the Mayor.
According to a council press release issued July 29 the decision to put the sanctions in place comes after a nine-month period of “great stress” following the last election.
The release claims that during that period the reputation and image of the Town of Gibbons have been negatively affected by the mayor’s actions. These are said to include attending meetings supposedly on council’s behalf but without its prior knowledge, engaging in threatening or bullying behavior toward other councillors and town employees, and becoming involved in verbal and physical fights at a local pub.
The sanction process is intended to be the first step in the creation of a municipal environment that is “positive, safe and, respectful and equitable and one that holds everyone to a high standard and in compliance with the Municipal Government Act.”
The second step is a formal mediation process that is scheduled to start in late August.
The release states that the council motions were passed only after guidance was sought from the town’s lawyers, Brownlee LLP, and that the mayor was given opportunities to respond to specific allegations.
”Mayor Horner did meet with council during an “in camera” session on July 23 during which time he made it abundantly clear that he was not prepared to accept responsibility for his actions nor is capable of realigning his behaviours with what is expected of an elected official or serve as a true leader of a municipal organization,” it declares.
Horner could not be reached by telephone and did not respond to an email request for comment on the council move.
The sanctions are authorized by the Alberta Municipal Government Act. As the act stipulates, Horner will remain a voting member and will retain the ceremonial title of mayor.
The action is not expected to affect the day-to-day workings of the town, which is managed by a chief administrative officer and some 17 employees.