Dispute over resignation of councillor

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Morrin Village Coun. Melissa Wilton gave notice of her resignation as councillor on Sat. Sept. 26 stating in her letter that she had other commitments requiring her time and attention.

However, on Tues. Sept 29 Mayor Helton was notified by Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Plachner that the resignation was not valid because her letter was not addressed to the CAO as per the Municipal Affairs Act (MGA) and Wilton had changed her mind about resigning.

Wilton did not respond to a request by the ECA Review for an interview during her lunch break Tues. Oct. 13, prior to going to press.

An inquiry by Mayor Helton to Alberta Municipal Affairs Advisory Manager, Travis Nosko, CPA stated “The MGA is very clear that a councillor is considered to have resigned immediately upon providing his/her resignation to the CAO in writing.  

In an email responding to Nosko’s letter and a further letter from Michael S. Solowan, Partner, in the law firm of Brownlee LLP who practice municipal law, Deputy Mayor stated “I believe the rescinding of Melissa’s resignation holds the same weight as her earlier resignation. 

“As the resignation was not accepted by council as a whole at a council meeting, I accept the rescinding of her resignation as valid.

“Melissa Wilton is still on council and intends to stay on council until the end of her term.”

Nosko had stated in his letter, “With respect to acceptable forms of ‘in writing,’ we can look to the Interpretations Act that states: ‘if an enactment states ‘writing’, ‘written’ or any similar term it includes words represented or reproduced by any mode of representing or reproducing words in visible form.          

“As emails can be viewed electronically and/or printed they are therefore a producible visible form.  As such councillor Wilton has met the standards of the MGA and is resigned as of Sept 26, 2020,” concluded Nosko. 

Nosko also added that the email address the councillor forwarded the message to is known to be used exclusively by the CAO of the village and the MGA says ‘given’ to the CAO, not addressed to the CAO.

Rescinded resignation?

“The Deputy Mayor and the CAO continue to obstruct the intent of the Municipal Act,” stated Helton.

Council Wilton subsequently rescinded her resignation which, according to the MGA is invalid.

Mayor Helton consulted with Michael S. Solowan, Partner, Brownlee LLP who practices municipal law working for the public section clients including municipalities.

Solowan stated, “With respect to Brownlee LLP’s municipal helpline service, I can provide following general legal information, at no cost, to the Village: (Section 161: 1 – 7).

“The resignation must be in writing and given to the CAO.

“Sending a resignation via email satisfies the requirement that it be “in writing” (both the Interpretation Act and the Electronic Transactions Act support this interpretation).

“Sending a resignation via email to an email account monitored by the CAO satisfies the requirement that the resignation be given to the CAO.   

A resignation takes place on the date it is received by the CAO.

Nothing in the MGA requires council to “accept” a resignation by passing a resolution or otherwise.  The resignation is effective upon receipt by the CAO without any action being taken by council, simply by operation of the law. 

The CAO must report the resignation at the first council meeting after receiving the resignation.  

“Again, the resignation takes effect on the date it is received by the CAO and this reporting requirement is simply a formality which must be complied with:  typically, all of council are copied on the resignation itself or the CAO informally advises all of council as soon as the resignation is received as it may be several weeks until the next council meeting.”

Deputy Mayor Edwards stated, after reading Solowan’s email,  “I believe her resignation was made under duress from you (Helton) as I know full well you tried to bully me into agreeing with you to use any means possible to get rid of Annette,” adding the MGA is legislation is open to interpretation.

In an email to the ECA Review, Mayor Helton stated “I am disappointed with council and administration in not respecting and adhering to the MGA and complying with the regulations as stated therein.  

“Although with administration and Deputy Edwards it seems to be a trend as with the recent example of the non-compliant Sept. 25, 2020 special meeting.  

“As well there are a number of resolutions in 2020 that are not being implemented that again reflect administration and Deputy Edwards’ disregard for the regulations of the MGA. 

“As is indicated in Ms. Edwards, Oct. 9, 2020 comment, councillor Wilton had submitted an earlier resignation as well.  I understand on that occasion CAO Plachner refused to accept it.     

“Hopefully they will ‘see the light’ in the not too distant future and decide to honour their responsibility to the Village and themselves,” concluded Mayor Helton.

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