Council tension over code of conduct bylaw

Paintearth County council

There was a great deal of tension amongst councillors when a bylaw to establish a code of conduct for council was presented at their regular meeting on Tues., Nov. 10.

According to CAO Tarolyn Peach, the decision to have a legal team prepare the document was agreed upon during previous ‘in camera’ discussions.

However, the nine-page legal document prepared by Brownlee LLP was not to the liking of Counc. Rocky Dahmer who found the contract “disturbing and that it takes away the freedom of expression.”

He also felt that this particular bylaw “is an attempt by administration to take over how council is run.  If they hear something they don’t like they can shut us up.”

He went on to say, “The power of a council is to recognize everyone has their own beliefs and opinions.  We have to listen to each other, respect each other and then come to a consensus.”

Coun. Doreen Blumhagen also voiced her displeasure to council over the document.  Claiming that the bylaw in it’s current format restricts not only her opinion but the ability to voice the concerns of those in her division.

Coun. Blumhagen also felt that administration had a direct hand in telling the lawyers what content to include in the paperwork because of what she feels is a direct reference to her in the contract.

Coun. Blumhagen told council that she approached administration outside of a meeting to ask about the guidelines concerning adding her social media contact information to her business cards.

She claims she was not provided with an answer but in the end decided not to include it.  The bylaw presented to council had a social media subheading that specifically addressed that exact situation, stating that the use of social media contact information is prohibited on business cards.

Coun. Blumhagen said she found it hard to believe that the lawyers would add that on their own without specific direction from administration, thus feeling it was proof of Coun. Dahmer’s claim, that administration was attempting to usurp the power of council.

Peach reiterated the fact that “legal opinion was sought after direction from council” and that council was free to do as they wish with it because it was their document.

Coun. Blumhagen pushed Peach on the subject of whether or not administration had a direct influence on what went into the contract however no direct answer was provided.

Tension continued to grow when Coun. Walter Weber very loudly complained about how social media was used to ‘back stab’ other council members.  He staunchly defended his belief that as a council they needed to stand by the decisions they made as a group – by majority vote.  That as a council they sometimes have to make unpopular decisions, such as raising taxes, and when a ruling wins by majority, councillors should not make some members look like the ‘bad guys’ by telling the public on facebook they didn’t want to raise taxes.

Reeve George Glazier supported Coun. Weber’s opinion that if a motion is carried then all councillors should stand by it and that they should not go on social media and point fingers.

Reeve Glazier also redirected the focus to Coun. Blumhagen’s motion to investigate other county’s codes of conduct for comparison prior to accepting the legal draft as their bylaw.

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