June 25th, 2024

Even if Clark is right, she’s in the wrong: Clugston

By COLLIN GALLANT on April 12, 2024.

Former mayor Ted Clugston says Mayor Linnsie Clark might be right about administrative mistakes but has chosen the wrong way to handle it in the aftermath.--NEWS FILE PHOTOS


Former Medicine Hat mayor Ted Clugston says Mayor Linnsie Clark may be right in arguing top administrators mishandled a corporate reorganization last summer.

But, he said she’s handled it wrong, likely earned the sanctions placed upon her and council is due for a hard time getting substantial work done before the next election.

“People want city council to function and not make the headlines,” he told the News.

“I point out where I think Mayor Clark might be correct, but there might be more going on here than what you or I might be seeing. So, let’s cool our jets.”

Clugston, who lost the 2021 election to Clark, made rare public comment Thursday, speaking with local media, including a noon-hour TV interview, on the current controversy that saw Clark hit with heavy penalties for a code of conduct violation after challenging the city manager at an Aug. 21, 2023 meeting.

She lost the ability to chair council meetings, is limited to communicating with the city manager by mass email and had her salary reduced in half.

Clark has vowed to apply for judicial review of the decision, calling the finding flawed and the penalties disproportionate. That has split opinion in the community.

“A driving force behind my decision to run for mayor was to bring transparency back to council chambers and city hall,” Clark told supporters on March 27. “If a court determines that I was wrong or overbearing, I will apologize for my inquiries or the manner in which I made them, but I still believe I was just doing my job as the mayor our citizens elected.”

Both Clark and eight council members have said they will attempt to work together, but neither side has said whether any discussions to that effect have taken place.

Clugston was mayor from 2013 until 2021 and sought a third term before losing to Clark. She won by a clear majority running on a platform to increase transparency at city hall.

Since then, Clugston has only done two interviews – last summer he was harshly critical of council’s handling of record high local utility bills.

He told the News this week he is happy out of politics and has no current ambition to run again for mayor, “unless something substantial changes.”

Clugston says he doesn’t have behind-the-scenes insight, but city hall experience leads him to believe that strain between council and the mayor had been growing for some time.

He noted that in meetings leading up to complaint, councillors voted to restrict the mayor’s ability to attend or vote at committee meetings.

“It’s been a slow process and then they pulled out the biggest gun they had, and that got people’s attention,” he told the News, adding the judicial review process may shed light on any back story.

“Council is gagged and Mayor Clark is out defending herself,” he said.

The majority of Hatters are left wondering about the severity of the sanctions, which are among the strictest allowed under a process defined in the Municipal Government Act.

Video of the meeting in question has been viewed 11,000 times on the city’s YouTube channel, compared to several hundred for a typical meeting.

Many commented on the relatively even tone of the meeting before councillors interrupted 10 minutes of questions from Clark to city manager Ann Mitchell over whether council needed to approve corporate changes before they were executed.

Clark supporters have argued that sanctions can only result from specific action detailed in the complaint, but Clugston implied Clark mishandled the situation.

“Big (administrative) changes have to be done in open – but there’s being correct and being humble when you’re right, and there’s also ramming it down people’s throat to prove you’re right,” he said. “That’s the unfortunate part.”

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