Unhappy with media coverage, Town takes out half page ad to tell their side

Above: Photo of the half page ad the Town of Morinville ran in a local print publication this week in response to an article in the previous edition.

by Colin Smith

Unhappy with media coverage of Morinville’s recently announced corporate reorganization, Chief Administrative Officer Stephane Labonne expressed his dissatisfaction at the regular meeting of Town Council Jan. 26.

The CAO made his remarks as part of a Corporate Organizational Redesign and Transformation Report delivered verbally to Council.

After recapping the launch of the three-stage reorganization plan, Labonne went on to discuss the media coverage that followed an Administration press release announcing it.

He praised articles published by Morinville News and the St. Albert Gazette, while criticizing one published by the Morinville Free Press.

“There is one media outlet – that is the Free Press – which disappointed and surprised me with the approach they decided to take respecting the changes that were made and the reasons they were made and more importantly the information that went into consideration for those changes.”

Labonne went on to address the work of an international organization promoting codes of ethics for media organizations.

“While media policies may differ between news organizations and certain ethical topics are shrouded in shades of grey, the core concepts of independence, impartiality and showing humanity are international baselines for journalistic work,” he quoted from one discussion.

The CAO noted that the Town of Morinville has been using the Free Press as a medium and communications tool for advertising and marketing.

“I would ask that there be opportunities for people who have questions or concerns to reach out to Council or the Administration to seek out answers to those questions.”

Labonne pointed to an advertisement taken out in the Free Press by the Town in response to the article.

He said the ad aims “to provide a level of clarity to those who choose to read the newspaper so they are able to understand and seek out the information that was accurate and factually correct as opposed to misleading.”

The media release issued on January 15 announced staff changes as a result of the reorganization including some employees being let go, others being reassigned and the creation of new roles.

The release also stated the Town was taking steps to move from service delivery Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., to 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

In its January 20 edition the Free Press published a front-page article headlined “High Salary Positions Added During Town Reorganization.”

The article described the release as being “laden with hype and feel-good statements” but with no details or specifics on the number of staff terminated or what municipal services would be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The article added that as of January 16 the Town was accepting resumes for four positions: Manager of Infrastructure Services (salary range of $119,601 to $142,810), General Manager of Administrative Services ($159,501 to $190,453), Supervisor of Payroll and Benefits ($84,234 to $100,580), and Infrastructure Projects Coordinator ($76,900 to $91,823), according to the Careers section of the website.

Information provided to Morinville News and published last week indicated the terminations were for Director of Corporate Services, Engineering and Facilities Manager, Human Resources Coordinator and two Administrative Assistants, a total of 4.6 full-time equivalent positions.

The Director of Corporate Services was reclassified as the General Manager of Administrative Services and the Engineering and Facilities Manager became the Manager of Infrastructure Services.

As advertised on the website, the Town is also now seeking to hire a Human Resources Advisor (salary $95,770 to $114,354), a Graphic Design and Content Creator, and a temporary full-time Client Service Representative. Applications for a temporary full-time Economic Development Officer position were closed January 4, and recruitment of a Protective Services Clerk has been “paused.”

“I’m proud of the work we have done,” Labonne told Council at the end of his report. “We are looking for all kinds of mechanisms and avenues and channels to be able to put forward why we made the changes we did and what was needed for those changes to be made.”

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