June 13th, 2024

Financials report pushed for time, not interest: council

By COLLIN GALLANT on April 11, 2024.

Coun. Shila Sharps attends Monday's council meeting at city hall.--NEWS PHOTO BRENDAN MILLER

cgallant@medicinehatnews.com@CollinGallant

Mayor Linnsie Clark’s request for detailed expense and HR reports from top administrators was cut off by the clock at Monday’s council meeting, but two councillors say they could do a deep dive of the information in the audit committee.

The issue was the last matter discussed Monday when the meeting was ended at a set time of 11 p.m., and therefore will move to the April 22 agenda.

That – backdropped against sanctions levelled against Clark last month for unfair treatment of the city manager – has led to criticism that council simply pushed off the controversial request.

Coun. Darren Hirsch told the News on Wednesday that council was willing to take up the issue on the night, but agenda changes moved it later.

As it was, he was ready to suggest the request for financial information posed before budget talks begin, according to Clark, be dealt with at the audit committee, which he chairs.

“In normal protocol, if it’s the will of council, then it will get sent to the appropriate committee,” he said, noting the data could come to committee for study.

On how council is operating after sanctions were approved and Clark’s request for a judicial review of the matter, Hirsch said, “My request is that we deal with each other respectfully.”

The issue has added more heat to public debate about the sanctions, which cut Clark’s pay, removed her as the chair of council and limited her interactions with city manager Ann Mitchell to email messages copied to all of council.

Clark told the News on Tuesday that the request for detailed list of spending from Mitchell’s office, among others, should not be seen as controversial, but rather a matter of financial oversight.

“I’m surprised it’s contentious,” Clark said, adding later that she hopes the issue will be dealt with as soon as possible. “It was a long meeting and I respect their decision to not go beyond 11 p.m.”

Coun. Shila Sharps told the News on Wednesday that she has received a lot of criticism for comments that it was late and she was “losing the will to live” by the end of the meeting. It began at 4 p.m with a closed session prior to four-and-a-half hours of discussion at open portion.

She told the News she meant no offence and was speaking off-the cuff at the end of a long day.

“I feel we have a responsibility to be coherent when we’re (discussing items at) council,” she said. “It was late and no one else said anything when (Clark) asked for a seconder (to extend the meeting). I though she deserved an explanation.”

Coun. Ramona Robins said Clark’s introduction Monday night was the first explanation of the request, made seven weeks earlier, that had been given.

Robins told Clark during discussion that she will consider the mayor’s case for the info ahead of the next meeting, but felt it should be customary to provide explanation beforehand.

Clark told the News there had been some interaction about the request since it was filed on Feb 20, but would not expand.

Sharps said financial matters are important, but she thought much of the information was already available.

“If there’s a concern with the city manager’s budget, then I’ll be the first one all over it,” Sharps told the News on Wednesday. “But it’s my understanding that the mayor should have (much of) the information already,” pertaining to the city manager’s budget.

Clark has asked for itemized spending reports from city manager and all division heads, information on whether “housing expenses” are being covered for some city employees, turnover rates and the costs of severance packages offered.

The meeting also featured some unanimity among councillors to have staff explore hiring an integrity commissioner to handle future code of conduct complaints.

“I think it was apparent that people were trying to work together for the most part and putting the interests of the community ahead of whatever internal disputes there may be,” said Clark. “Ultimately we need to focus on what’s best for the community.”

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