Big Valley councillor claims CAO making “rash decisions”

Written by Stu Salkeld

A councillor for the Village of Big Valley questioned the chief administrative officer’s (CAO) qualifications and wanted the administrator to take a stress management course.

That idea was defeated in a 2 to 1 vote at the Sept. 24 regular meeting of council.

Coun. Harry Nibourg asked that several additions be made to that meeting’s agenda, including the topic of CAO Sandra Schell’s annual evaluation.

The provincial government’s Municipal Government Act (MGA) requires CAO’s have an annual performance evaluation.

Coun. Nibourg asked when CAO Schell’s annual job evaluation was coming up if he could get a copy of Schell’s qualifications and also suggested all village staff submit confidential evaluations of Schell’s performance. 

Nibourg stated in order to get a fair evaluation of Schell’s performance, confidential appraisals were necessary.

Deputy Mayor Clark stated he has seen appraisals like that in the private sector. He said he’s not a big fan of anonymous comments but also said he’d like to see honest, fair feedback.

Nibourg made a motion that CAO Schell take a stress management course because Schell “has made rash decisions under pressure and became emotionally distraught under stressful situations.” 

Coun. Art Tizzard stated he didn’t understand why Schell’s qualifications were being discussed and that it seemed Nibourg still had an axe to grind. 

“You guys hired her,” said Tizzard. “That was the time to do the evaluation.”

Nibourg stated more transparency is needed because Big Valley has never been transparent enough.

At this point Deputy Mayor German stated he felt any more discussion on the CAO’s evaluation should be done in closed session. Nibourg’s motion to require the CAO to take a stress management course was defeated by a 2 to 1 vote.

Keep a record

Coun. Nibourg made a motion that, from then on, all council votes would be recorded in the minutes so readers would know who voted in favour and against motions. Nibourg stated he felt it was important to be transparent and open.

Deputy Mayor German agreed. Councillors unanimously approved the motion.

Inspection defeated

Coun. Nibourg made a motion that the village request a provincial government inspection of the village administration. 

Nibourg referred to a letter the village previously received from Municipal Affairs noting the option of requesting an inspection.

The inspection must be approved by a resolution of council. 

Nibourg’s motion was defeated 2 to 1.

Note: The ECA Review was notified Coun. Nibourg received said letter from Municipal Affairs, not the Village of Big Valley.

RCMP claim crimes occurred

Coun. Nibourg asked his fellow councillors if they were aware of an RCMP investigation into the Village of Big Valley administration regarding allegations of fraud and other issues.

German responded by stating all councillors received an email from the CAO noting the RCMP investigation after some allegations were made.

Nibourg responded by saying he spoke with the RCMP and the police told him the investigation confirmed crimes occurred but RCMP were not charging anyone because of the coronavirus pandemic which, police claim, would simply result in the charges being thrown out of court anyway. 

Nibourg stated the case file was #20201028011.

Road ban

Coun. Tizzard stated he’d heard complaints from business owners downtown that the year-round road ban placed on Railway Ave. was hurting business. 

Tizzard stated he’d heard that big trucks stopping in Big Valley used to support the business sector better.

Tizzard stated it’s being felt because business is already down this year. However, Tizzard stated he understood why the ban was being placed in the spring when the roads are soft.

Coun. Nibourg stated the road ban helps protect the roads from damage.

Water/Sewer bylaw

Councillors passed the updated Water/Sewer Bylaw by a 2 to 1 vote, Nibourg opposed. 

At the August council meeting Nibourg requested third reading of the bylaw be delayed for a month so he could examine it closely.

However, Nibourg stated he didn’t get a chance to look at the bylaw and understood it would come to a vote.

Bylaw enforcement

Councillors unanimously approved some changes to the way the village enforces bylaws. 

The Enforcement Bylaw was tweaked to name council as the investigator of complaints by taxpayers who don’t feel they’ve been treated fairly by the village.

Normally, the CAO would handle complaints about the bylaw officer, but in the village the CAO and bylaw officer are the same person.

CAO Schell noted the new way of handling such complaints would be publicized so residents know they have this option. 

All readings necessary to bring the revised bylaw into effect were passed.

Animal control clarity

CAO Schell reported to council on the village’s current Animal Control Bylaw, which she stated is mostly concerned with dogs with one part referring to farm animals. 

Schell stated updating the bylaw would clarify things for staff when complaints come in.


Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

ECA Review

About the author

Stu Salkeld

Stu Salkeld, who has upwards of 28 years of experience in the Alberta community newspaper industry, is now covering councils and other news in the Stettler region and has experience working in the area as well.

He has joined the ECA Review as a Local Journalism Initiative Journalist.

Stu earned his two-year diploma in print journalism from SAIT in Calgary from 1993 to ’95 and was raised in Oyen, Alta., one of the communities within the ECA Review’s coverage area.