June 15th, 2024

Letter: Council’s employee should not be advising council on governance

By Letter to the Editor on June 11, 2024.

Dear editor,

Re: Local Government Primer Column – Municipal Matters, by Ann Mitchell – 6 June 2024

Whose idea was it to have our city manager write a column on governance? I was surprised to learn that Ann Mitchell is an expert on governance. If we have an expert on staff at the city, why did council spend thousands of dollars to hire George Cuff to give them presentation on governance?

In the June 6 column, Ms. Mitchell gives guidelines for councillors to follow and mentions that councillors must follow the code of conduct and “must address each other, administration and the public professionally and respectfully.” Is she implying that this is not being done? And by whom? Or has the Code of Conduct sanctions imposed on our mayor not been enough without the News giving Ms. Mitchell another opportunity to insinuate that our mayor is not acting professionally or respectfully.

And, “The challenge of role clarity is one that continues to plague local government, and the lack of that clarity between politicians and administration can be detrimental to the overall organization as well as the community it serves.” What is Ms. Mitchell saying here? That our city council cannot understand their role and must take advice from the city manager with respect to their role?

George Cuff’s presentation to the Committee of the Whole on May 29 just restated governance roles that anyone familiar with governance already knew, but, it also gave him an opportunity to present several slides in his power point presentation that singled out the mayor: “When the Mayor understands,” and “this role will be handicapped when the Mayor does not…” and “Key Roles of the Mayor.”

All of these I found to be disrespectful, as if he was given a list by council and perhaps the city manager of all of the things they thought the mayor was doing incorrectly and needed to be changed.

Why didn’t he use, “When councillors do not,” or, “When councillors understand,” or “key roles of councillors?”

The only conclusion I can draw is that Mr. Cuff was hired by councillors and the city manager not to provide guidance on overall governance, but to single out the mayor based on what councillors and the city manager think she is doing wrong.

I found this to be entirely inappropriate for a presentation on governance to our city council.

My personal opinion (and that of many other citizens) is that our mayor is doing her job. She is accountable to us, the citizens of Medicine Hat, and if procedure is not being followed, she should find out why. Interesting that Ms. Mitchell in her column states that “following procedures is critical,” and yet she admitted procedure was not followed in the administrative reorganization, by her and also apparently, by council. And yet our mayor, asking why, was sanctioned for asking the question.

If the News is printing a column entitled “Municipal Matters,” perhaps it should be written by a member of council, a person elected by the citizens, and that person could give us their perspective of some of the important issues council is dealing with, rather than a staff member giving advice to city council on their role.

If city council is to receive direction or advice on their role as a governing body, I believe it should not come from their employee.

Sincerely,

Judith Bergum

Medicine Hat

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