April 18th, 2024

Tensions were mounting between mayor and city manager

By COLLIN GALLANT on March 28, 2024.

cgallant@medicinehatnews.com@CollinGallant

A letter from Linnsie Clark’s lawyer to investigators of a breach of conduct complaint argues the Medicine Hat mayor is correct that process wasn’t followed at city hall in a corporate reorganization last summer.

Therefore, it concludes, Clark did not defame city manager Ann Mitchell during an Aug. 21 meeting that became the centre of a code of conduct complaint.

But, the letter also outlines months of growing tension before and after the meeting, including back-and-forth emails between the two and city solicitors office and reveals that Mitchell sought her own legal representation over Clark’s allegations.

Clark told the media and supporters she will seek judicial review of sanctions levelled last week, and also released her written submission to a third-party investigation process that found she “maliciously” injured Mitchell’s professional and ethical reputation.

The 47-page document released Wednesday is a written submission Clark produced for the investigation by Kingsgate Legal. It, along with a similar submission by complainant Coun. Shila Sharps, was an unreleased appendix to the version of the report released late Tuesday by the city clerk’s department.

Included in Clark’s submission is a letter from Mitchell’s lawyers in November requesting an apology and to cease “egregious” behaviour that defamed the city manager both at the Aug.21 meeting and in an email days earlier.

The details of the undisclosed email, dated Aug. 15, are redacted by Clark, who released the documents after press availability.

A statement on behalf of Mitchell obtained by the News on Wednesday confirmed the letter was sent, but only added there is no related litigation ongoing.

Clark told the media and supporters at an announcement at city hall that she discussed concerns “several times” with Mitchell that layoffs and promotions in a corporate reorganization were happening before council approved corresponding changes in the city’s administrative bylaw.

She claims in the letter that Mitchell mischaracterized a decision on process as coming from the city solicitors office.

The two sides also argue whether informal common terms such as “workshop” session could be applied to official council meetings.

The package includes lengthy descriptions of official responsibilities of administrators and councillors, but also touches on interactions over the city manager’s performance review one month before the Aug. 21 meeting.

The fate of two positions created one year earlier under the mayor’s office is also mentioned. The chief of staff and council communications positions were vacated quietly in the fall.

Mitchell was hired in February 2023 as city manager following a near year-long stretch of interim or acting chief administrators following the retirement of Bob Nicolay.

The corporate reorganization and creating a new economic development strategy were outlined as high priorities when she joined the city.

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