April 15th, 2024

Business as usual at council on Monday?

By James Tubb on March 26, 2024.

NEWS PHOTO BRENDAN MILLER Linnsie Clark attend a Council Committee of the Whole meeting in council chambers at city hall Monday evening. More than 80 members of the public were in attendance supporting Clark.

Collin Gallant

Hatters filled city council chambers Monday to see the first meeting following an apparent break between Mayor Linnsie Clark and the rest of council.

What they got — after providing a standing ovation to the embattled mayor — was a couple hours of discussion on residential development subsidies and the city’s environmental plan.

The meeting, meant to be a kind of workshop for councillors on the plan, came into the spotlight after heavy sanctions were levelled on Clark last week, approved by council citing code of conduct breaches.

Clark has vowed to look into legal action against code of conduct penalties that bar her from chairing meetings, reduce her salary in half and limit her interactions with staff.

Clark waived the cheering crowd of about 80 people when entering through the main lobby shortly before the 6:30 p.m. meeting convened, then sat at the far end of the council table to listen to two presentations and asked several questions about past performance of incentive programs.

She had no statement for the media following the twohour session, but said she would make a public statement Wednesday, the same day city clerk’s office says a third-party review of the code complaint may be ready to be released.

Councillors called the meeting close to business as usual, but attendees wanted to send a message.

“I hope council realizes that the citizens of Medicine Hat are concerned about what’s going on,” said Catherine MacKenzie, who called on Hatters to rally at the meeting behind Clark. “The sanctions I think are above and beyond what they claim she’d done.”

Some Clark supporters left campaign signs outside chambers, where they are banned by protocol. The majority of observers wore campaign shirts or buttons.

The crowd even included a white standard poodle that was badged as a support dog.

Coun. Allison Knodel, who chaired the meeting as deputy mayor (a role that rotates among all councillors on a set schedule), said the crowd wasn’t a distraction.

“We still have the same responsibilities when we sit down (as a council),” said Knodel. “I don’t think there was too much thought about it. When you make a decision of that magnitude … it’s going to draw a curiosity or disappointment or support or mixed feelings. Overall, council was here to do the work we’re here to do.”

Coun. Knodel told the News last week the sanctions are meant to act like guardrails to prevent further conflict.

On Monday, Clark supporters questioned the level of sanctions stemming from an August exchange between her and city manager Ann Mitchell. Clark has said since she was combatting administrative overreach. Council approved a statement outlining that Clark and council was well briefed on the corporate reorganization in question.

“I think it’s a travesty what they’ve done,” said Karen Broder, who arrived 45 minutes early to the meeting, adding she voted for Clark in 2021 election and would again.

“I think they’ve opened themselves up to (legal action).”

“I’m not impressed with what’s going on at all,” said Hatter Diana Arnott, who felt that in a disagreement between the city manager and the mayor, the mayor should prevail.

“The city manager is acting the same way as the old boys club.”

Other attendees told the News that they want to see the third-party report.

The city clerk’s office informed the media that the report could be released Wednesday or Thursday.

Under the sanctions, Clark is barred from directly interacting with staff except during council meetings when discussing issues or requesting information.

Coun. Shila Sharps attended the meeting via video conference, as did Coun. Andy McGrogan. Coun. Ramona Robins was absent.

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