April 23rd, 2024

SPC report addresses lawlessness task force issues

By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on March 28, 2024.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDabeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

The terms of reference and other matters regarding the Downtown Lawlessness Reduction Task Force will be addressed by the Governance Standing Policy committee of Lethbridge city council this afternoon.
The SPC meets at 1:30 p.m. in council chambers and consists of councillors Belinda Crowson, Jenn Schmidt-Rempel, Rajko Dodic and acting mayor John Middleton-Hope.
The SPC will deal with a report to be presented by Director of Legal Services Brian Loewen which was made in response to a resolution passed on Feb. 22 by the SPC that requested him to review the task force terms of reference.
The recommendation Loewen will make is to direct City administration to establish the task force.
The review was prompted after two citizens, Yale Belanger and Steven Graham, brought up concerns that two members had potential conflicts of interest. Hunter Heggie and Matthew McHugh are members of both the task force and the Lethbridge Police Commmission. Heggie is also on the board of the Downtown Revitalization Zone as are task force members Kendal Hachkowski and Sheri Kain.
“There’s nothing inherently non-compliant between the terms of reference for the DLR and the procedure bylaw, however, as currently structured, council must have considered that the matter is both urgent and time limited. While the determination that this matter is urgent may be inferred from the Council resolution and debate, a better practice in the future would be to include that determination in the resolution creating the committee. The resolution did include the end date of December 31, 2024,” states Loewen’s report.
“If council doesn’t view these issues as urgent and/or temporary, then establishing a more permanent committee through a bylaw is necessary,” the report adds.
The report notes that the definition of public member in the city’s procedure bylaw isn’t consistent with the Municipal Government Act or other applicable legislation, the key being the definition requires council to appoint a member.
By definition, the report states, provincially appointed members of the police commission would not be “public members” according to the procedure bylaw definition.
“If there was a conflict or inconsistency between a bylaw and provincial legislation, s. 13 of the MGA renders the conflicting/inconsistent bylaw of no force or effect, but only to the extent of the conflict or inconsistency. Pursuant to our procedure bylaw, a public member can only sit on one board or commission unless council makes the determination that conditions warrant the additional BCC appointment (s. 48(b) of the procedure bylaw),” says the report.
It also notes that while council has the authority to create the Business Improvement Area, it does not have power to appoint members. So therefore the BIA isn’t a board, commission or committee under the procedure bylaw “and does not count towards an appointment of a public member.”
The report states the LRTF is established under a section of the procedure bylaw that allows city council by resolution to set up urgent, short-term committees as long as it has a sunset clause.
“In practice, this avenue is intended for urgent, short-lived needs that would
make a bylaw impractical and is ideally limited to advisory bodies only. .. .If there is a desire for the Lawlessness Reduction Task Force to continue beyond the short term,it must be created by bylaw, pursuant to s. 21 of the Procedure Bylaw.”
Loewen’s report has lists four recommendations and options council could consider depending upon the vote by the SPC. Those include:
1. Do nothing. This temporary, advisory body may continue without any changes as it has no independent authority unless its decisions are ratified by council.
2. If council, wished to grant any decision-making authority to the DLR it must by created by bylaw. Alternatively, if the issue isn’t temporary, then it should be created by bylaw as well. Direct Administration to draft bylaw to establish a decision-making body to consider these matters.
3. As many of the issues affecting the Downtown could fall into the jurisdiction of the Police Commission, accordingly, council could request that the Commission consider creating a subcommittee with this mandate.
4. Lastly, this could be constituted as an administrative advisory body in which case council should not appoint members rather that would fall to the City Manager or delegate.

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