The newly elected mayor of the Village of Big Valley stated to council that accusations and rumours surrounding an RCMP investigation into the village administration was misleading and the municipality is run honestly and properly.
Mayor Clark German made the statements at the Oct. 22 regular meeting of council.
German, newly elected as mayor during the annual organizational meeting a few moments earlier, stated he wanted to read a statement referring to an RCMP investigation into alleged fraud at the village office.
“I will start out by saying that full disclosure of information to the public and conducting business in a transparent manner is of utmost importance,” stated German in his letter.
“Keeping in mind, of course, that freedom of information privacy (FOIP) legislation must be adhered to.
“I am making this statement to ensure information is disclosed to the public that provides additional context to events recently discussed in council and published in the media.
“It is public knowledge that there is an open RCMP investigation into alleged fraudulent activity within village administration.
What has not been made clear to the public is that focus of the investigation is related to a situation dating back to 2016 and not on any current events.
“Over the last few months several attempts have been made by council to discuss and understand if there are examples of, or credible suspicion of, corruption in the current administration. To date those discussions simply have not provided any tangible information that would warrant an investigation or inspection by the Minister of Municipal Affairs or any other authorities.
“To further support this position it is important to point out that earlier this year there were two independent/external reviews focussed on the municipality’s financial affairs and compliance to the Municipal Government Act.
“The annual independent audit for the village 2019 year-end financial statements was conducted by the accounting firm of Gitzel & Co. In Q1, 2020. The results of the audit found the books to be in good order and in full accordance with Canadian public sector accounting standards.
“The in-depth municipal accountability program review conducted by Municipal Affairs in Q2, 2020 concluded that village business was being conducted in strong compliance to the MGA with no significant areas of concern.
“The independent/external reviews and their favourable outcomes support the determination that council and administration are conducting village matters in a credible, professional manner,” added German.
The RCMP investigation was brought up at the Sept. regular council meeting by Coun. Harry Nibourg. In response to German’s statement Nibourg stated he still sees a lot of questions surrounding the RCMP investigation and added that he feels some deception has gone on.
Contacted by the ECA Review Oct. 30, Stettler RCMP commander Sgt. Tim Gaultois stated there’s been no change in the status of the investigation. “Our investigation is still ongoing and is before the courts to see if there is enough evidence to proceed with any charges,” stated Gaultois in an email. “There has been no change since our last conversation.”
German repeated that he feels serious evidence has to come forward to support serious accusations like fraud and that lack of evidence resulted in council defeating a motion to initiate an investigation.
Coun. Art Tizzard stated that nothing tangible about the accusations has ever come forward.
Nibourg responded that he’s faced sanctions against him by village council and didn’t get a fair trial even though he was just being passionate about the community, and even got a bill sent to him for village expenses related to the code of conduct process.
Tizzard responded it was stated in the code of conduct investigation report that the councillor in question is responsible for all costs of the investigation.
At this point Nibourg stated that he had been accused by Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Sandra Schell although what he was accused of was not mentioned at the council meeting.
Mayor German stated that he wasn’t comfortable talking about sanctions and that the village received legal advice about that issue.
German also stated the sanctions had nothing to do with the RCMP investigation.
However, German did add that an independent third party was involved in the code of conduct investigation and that the village council has spent many hours listening to Nibourg’s concerns.
Nibourg reiterated that he felt he never got a fair trial on the sanctions and that he plans on appealing them.
Coun. Tizzard then responded to Nibourg, “I think you need to look in a mirror.”
Councillors voted 2-1 to accept German’s letter for information.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative reporter