Following considerable debate, a motion to take the conflict of interest matter with Stettler County Councillor Ernie Gendre to court was defeated.
After discussing whether Councillor Gendre failed to disclose a pecuniary interest in a water line contract awarded on Sept. 14, Stettler County determined instead to formally censure him.
According to council, Gendre fell short of their standards of conduct and should have known it could be a conflict of interest, judging his actions ‘careless, irresponsible and negligent’.
Speaking out while council was in camera, Gendre maintained he did nothing wrong.
Alleging that facts have been twisted and council is in violation of its own code of conduct by not following the proper dispute resolution and disciplinary procedures.
Gendre believes this incident has caused considerable damage to both his and the county’s reputations.
In further comments, Coun. Gendre vehemently denied allegations he was contacted by anyone before voting on the waterline project.
He asserts he had no prior contact with any contractor regarding the bid, did not refer his son’s company to any contractor and most certainly did not gain any financial benefit from this contract.
Gendre stated, “The allegations are all completely false,” said Gendre before returning to council chambers.
In a Red Deer Advocate news story by reporter, Paul Cowley, contractor Wallace McComish. owner of Wally’s Backhoe Services was quoted saying, “Ernie had no idea, and had no way of having any idea, that I was going to hire Diablo, his son’s company – because I didn’t know. I thought my brother-in-law was doing the job until four days before the day I wanted to do it.”
During the course of the deliberations, Gendre accused a council member of disrespect and called for an apology.
Clarifications regarding the troubling statements were offered, though no apology was forthcoming.
Continuing the discussion, both sides stood firm in their opinions as they considered moving forward to the court system.
Deputy Reeve Les Stulberg asked how much taking this matter to the courts would cost the ratepayer.
Having already consulted the County’s lawyers for advice, Administration responded with an estimate of $25-$35,000.
Councillor James Nibourg then asked if taking the matter to court was worth spending $35,000.
Council acknowledged legal proceedings could be a long drawn out process with no satisfactory resolution.
A court case would most likely push the issue past the end of the current term and be ‘almost pointless’ with an election looming.
Admitting this matter has taken up a lot of council’s time, the popular opinion was to resolve the issue and ‘get it off the books’.
Council stated that while it does have an obligation to disclose the information to the public it has no obligation to pursue legal recourse.
Though dubbed ‘a very grievous act of poor judgement’, discussion on the issue ended and the motion was put to the vote.
Wednesday’s censure constitutes a formal, public reprimand for violations Councillor Gendre staunchly refutes. He is determined to continue to defend himself.