April 25th, 2024

What Hatters need to know about their council moving forward

By James Tubb on March 23, 2024.

Medicine Hat News

Hatters are trying to understand what’s at the core of complaints that led to what some call an unprecedented set of sanctions levelled by council against Mayor Linnsie Clark this week.

Without the ability to chair council meetings or interact with the city manger without other councillors present, it appears that she is a mayor in title only.

That leads to questions about how council will work moving forward, but also about what led to what council approved as a breach of the city council code of conduct.

Calls from readers to the News office ranged from outrage over seemingly harsh penalties to support for council’s decision and questions about what led to the decision.

“I assume that there will be thoughts across the whole spectrum, but to protect the integrity of the (complaint) process, we can’t divulge that,” said Coun. Allison Knodel.

“I hope there’s peace on the other side of this, because there are human beings involved.”

Some answers are contained in a report commissioned by the city from Edmonton law firm Kingsgate Legal, which will be made public, according to council sources.

Council’s motion refers to disrespectful behaviour from Clark during a 10-minute exchange with city manager Ann Mitchell during a public meeting on Aug.21. At the time, Coun. Shila Sharps interrupted and called the line of questioning “an inquisition.” Councillors forced a vote on the corporate reorganization that Clark argues went ahead out of order with council’s approval. Clearly frustrated, councillors then called a recess.

Later, Sharps filed a complaint, and neither she nor

Clark were present during four hours of closed door discussion about the merit of the complaint and penalties this week.

That was presided over by the deputy mayor, Coun. Allison Knodel, who said the incident is the focus of the report, and the penalties relate to the exchange and not any other aspect of council’s working relationship with Clark.

“We spend a fairly lengthy amount of time discussing it — it’s a difficult position, but we’re ultimately responsibile to the community to make the best decisions for the community,” said Knodel. “The sanctions are severe, it’s true, but it will allow us to uphold a functional and effective work environment. That will better serve the people who live here.”

Several relate to how Clark interacts with staff, and limit her access to administrative areas of city hall.

The Ministry of Municipal Affairs told the News they do not track penalties laid by individual municipalities under the the Municipal Government Act.

That legislation requires towns, cities and counties to develop and operate under codes of conduct, as well as lays out requirements and potential sanctions.

“Municipal Affairs is aware of the City of Medicine Hat’s special council meeting (Thursday) and the sanctions issued by council to the mayor,” a statement from the ministry read.

“The Municipal Government Act (MGA) does not provide the Minister of Municipal Affairs with any role in the adjudication of sanctions imposed by a council under a code of conduct bylaw,” the statement read.

What now?

Mayor Linnsie Clark can attend council meetings as a voting member but cannot chair the meeting, according to a list of sanctions approved tis week in a special meeting of council

Council meetings, including a committee meeting of the whole on Monday to discuss 2024-25 budget priorities will be chaired on a rotating basis by councillors.

Clark can also interact with city staff directly during formal meetings, but not outside of them.

The acting and deputy mayor roles are filled on a rotating basis in a schedule set at the beginning of year. Typically, they only become pertinent when the mayor or one of the two are away from the city or ill when official business or ceremonial duties need to be conducted.

As “deputy mayor” Coun. Allison Knodel chaired meetings this past week to discuss the sanctions, while Acting mayor, Coun. Andy McGrogan chaired the special meeting of council Thursday when Knodel was not available in person.

A set schedule is to be prepared ahead of the next regular meeting of council on April 1.

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