April 24th, 2024

Questions circle capabilities of council following Clark sanctions

By COLLIN GALLANT on March 23, 2024.

NEWS FILE PHOTO Medicine Hat City Council sit in the chambers during a regualr meeting in 2023.

cgallant@medicinehatnews.com@CollinGallant

A former councillor and mayoral candidate says that city council could flounder until the next election, regardless of how sanctions against Mayor Linnsie Clark play out.

Council voted 7-0 to severely limit Clark’s powers and reduce her salary on Thursday for council code of conduct violations, while Clark has said she’s examining her legal options for a potential judicial review.

Councillors said Friday they acted to ensure council’s work can move ahead, but Phil Turnbull says that regardless, he doesn’t have much confidence that much can be accomplished before the 2025 election.

“As a citizen, I’m really, really concerned,” said Turnbull, a mayoral candidate in 2013, and an unsuccessful candidate to remain as councillor in 2021, who adds that he doesn’t aspire to the job.

He believes that Clark should resign, but fears the reduction in the office’s roles and responsibilities over the term will have potential candidates think twice.

“If she does resign, who’ll run and take over and expect to be the leader?” said Turnbull.

“Council has said they can move ahead and get things done… perhaps they can do it, but for me, waiting another year and a half for an election is too long.”

Coun. Andy McGrogan told reporters after Thursday’s vote that the mayor holds one of nine votes on council, and “we plan on bringing all our business forward.”

Coun. Allison Knodel said the action was taken to ensure important work is completed going forward.

“The sanctions are severe, it’s true, but it will allow us to uphold a functional and effective work environment,” said Knodel, speaking on behalf of council as she is currently deputy mayor, a rotating position. “That will better serve the people who live here.”

Coun. Robert Dumanowski told the News that the whole episode has eroded peoples trust in city government, but councillors are working hard to provide good government.

“The credibility of our organization is of paramount importance,” he said.

Coun. Cassi Hider said that she feels the sanctions are suitable to address “a very challenging situation.”

“I do feel that we all learned from this process, including Mayor Clark, and we will be on a different level moving forward,” said Hider

Coun. Roman Robins said that Clark still sits as a member of council and can contribute.

“It’s my hope that Mayor Clark will continue to be a significant part of city governance,” said Robins. “She has a passion for Medicine Hat and the support of many Hatters. I want to continue to hear her thoughts and feedback on all the critical issues.”

Turnbull roundly criticized council for moving too slow during last year’s record power prices, and was loosely aligned with a protest group that has since organized without him.

He say’s that he has “zero” interest in another run for mayor as in his view, the successful mayoral candidate should commit be in the position for a four-year term ending in 2029.

That’s too long for him, said the 79-year-old Turnbull, adding, “but nobody should run for mayor should unless they change the rules.”

“How can you be the CEO and have no power to implement who’s on committees, work with administration, and work towards a group working together?” Asked Turnbull. “You can’t.”

This week’s sanctions relate specifically to Clark, but the role and responsibilities of the office were heavily reduced last summer when the procedure bylaw was amended.

Councillors introduced and passed amendments that removed the ability for the mayor to sit in on any committee with voting power and removed some items for meeting

The appointment of councillors to committees was also removed, and is now decided by majority vote of all council members.

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