April 17th, 2024

Verbal sparring led to sanctions on Mayor Clark

By Medicine Hat News on March 22, 2024.

@MedicineHatNews

Medicine Hat city council says Mayor Linnsie Clark crossed the line in questioning the city manager about a corporate re-organization last summer – a controversy that seemed to cool in the meantime but remained in the background at city hall.

Seven councillors approved a strong set of sanctions on Thursday, though Clark suggests the matter could end up in court.

“There’s no secret about it at city hall, some people in the community may be surprised,” said Coun. Andy McGrogan, the head of the committee that reviewed a complaint launched by fellow council member Shila Sharps. “There will be people who agree (with the penalties) and those who don’t.”

The controversy stems from an interaction between Clark and CAO Ann Mitchell last August when council was asked to approved bylaw changes that reflected a corporate reorganization. That was designed by Mitchell, who had been hired six months earlier. In it, some departments switched reporting structure and some positions were eliminated.

Clark argued at the time the changes in a corporate reorganization occurred out of order, and that

changes to the city’s bylaws should have taken place before changes were implemented.

After several minutes of pointed questioning by Clark, Mitchell stated she felt the interaction was “inappropriate” and wished it to stop.

Eventually, other councillors moved to force a vote, then voted to recess.

Afterwards, Clark has stood by her position that proper procedure, as defined in city policy, wasn’t followed, and she reiterated her stance again Thursday.

“I ran on a platform of change of the citizens of Medicine Hat who were concerned about administrative overreach and poor governance at city hall,” she said in a statement forwarded to the media. “I gave up my job as a lawyer for the city to fight for what I believe is right for Medicine Hat. That is what I did, and will continue to do that now.”

Clark, a member of the city’s solicitor’s office before taking a leave of absence to run in the 2021 municipal election, resigned the position when she won as a first-time candidate. (Under Alberta regulations, civic employees cannot hold elected positions of their employer.)

Shortly afterwards Coun. Robert Dumanowski told the News that Clark was isolating herself, and others said that for practical purposes, layoffs and potential promotions shouldn’t be debated in open council.

The letter of reprimand read out Thursday states Clark was out of order, knew about changes months in advance and should have handled herself differently.

“As you know council was fully aware of the plans for the city (corporate) reorganization as council had many updates from the city managers throughout 2023, including emails and an accompanying video about the new department names and managing directors. It was received on June 18, well before our meeting of Aug. 21,” the official motion reads.

“We are all profoundly disappointed in your actions. The city has a duty to provide a safe and respectful workplace for employees, including the City manager. Council will not tolerate any behaviour contrary to the code of conduct that undermines our ability to meet that critical requirement. As such, council expects that you will take the opportunity to reflect on these findings, and having done so, you will take to sincerely apologize to the city manager for your actions.

“We hope that we can move forward in a collaborative and respectful manner focusing on the critical issues that matter most to our community.”

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