April 16th, 2024

Clark to seek court ruling on sanctions

By COLLIN GALLANT on March 28, 2024.

Mayor Linnsie Clark answers questions in front of city hall Wednesday after announcing that she will apply for a judicial review of sanctions levelled upon her over a code of conduct breach.--News photo Collin Gallant

cgallant@medicinehatnews.com@CollinGallant

Mayor Linnsie Clark will go to court to overturn sanctions placed upon her by council last week, she told a press conference on Wednesday, stating she will stick to her position that what council ruled a “breach of council conduct” was just her asking tough questions of administrators.

Clark also told a crowd of about 50 supporters on the steps of city hall that she’ll accept the Court of King’s bench opinion that could be more than six months away. She hopes council would reconsider them in the meantime, but she will “reflect” on the controversy and work to continue the work at council.

In response, several councillors told the News they too are willing to work with “all” council members, but there is no indication they would will soon revisit sanctions they perviously said are meant to prevent a repeat of an interaction with the city manager last August.

That 10-minute exchange over the approval of the city’s corporate reorganization was the subject of a complaint that Clark treated city manager Ann Mitchell without due dignity afforded under council’s code of conduct.

“I don’t agree with the decision of council and I’m seeking a judicial review,” said Clark.”In the mean time I intend to do the work that Hatters elected me to do alongside my council colleagues within the limitation that council has imposed upon my role.”

Coun. Allison Knodel, who spoke on behalf of councillors earlier this week, told the News later Wednesday that as an individual she wouldn’t comment on the sanctions as they were potentially before the courts.

“I remain committed to working with all my colleagues to advance the interests and priorities of Hatters,” she said.

Coun. Robert Dumanowski reiterated that he feels the report clearly shows Clark’s actions hurt the public’s perceptions of local government.

“It is my sincerest desire that every member of council moving forward will live up to the principles outlined in our code of conduct,” he said.

Clark is barred from chairing council meetings, interacting with staff outside council meetings and must communicate with city manager Ann Mitchell by email or with an intermediary present. She also loses half her $144,000 per-year salary going forward.

Those are among the most stringent conditions allowed under the Municipal Government Act related to code of conduct infractions, and come after a report was complied by a third-party investigator. It determined the accusation was substantiated.

That report was released late Tuesday by the city clerk’s office with a number of large redactions cited as privileged under privacy legislation.

After Wednesday’s press conference, Clark released a lawyer’s letter she sent as a written response (which was not included in the report release) with several redactions itself.

Generally, it argues that Clark’s line of questioning was not discriminatory or malicious and Clark was following her statutory duty as an elected official.

That letter was sent more than two months after it was requested by law firm Kingsgate Legal, which interviewed Clark in early November and also requested she sign off on a transcript. Clark eventually did not sign the statement, she told reporters on Wednesday, instead pointing to her submission.

The submission also details her position that the city manager enacted a reorganization – changing some departmental tiles, laying off some staff and promoting some others – before council officially changed the administrative bylaw.

Clark argues it’s an example of bureaucratic overstep, but other councillors have often said since that they were well informed of the changes,

Clark told supporters Wednesday she was elected on a platform of accountability and transparency.

“Could I have approached it a different way? Perhaps. But that’s not how matters unfolded in the moment … but I still believe that I was just doing my job.

“My drive for good governance, transparency and accountability have apparently not always been well received. At times its rubbed people the wrong way. I know I’m not perfect. There’s always an opportunity to grow and improve. I will use the opportunity to consider how I can do that and hope others will, too.”

City council next meets on April 8.

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