Once again, I am embarrassed and disappointed by the actions of the Village of Morrin’s Chief Administrative Officer and Council at the Aug. 16, 2017 council meeting.
Just to give you a little insight as to how the day went prior to the council meeting. A reporter (publisher) of the East Central Alberta (ECA) Review who has faithfully and honestly been reporting on the council meetings in the Village of Morrin, phoned the CAO, Annette Plachner, to enquire as to whether or not a meeting was to take place that evening.
The CAO simply hung up and failed to respond.
Unfortunately this is not the first time Ms. Webster has been hung up on by the CAO. Another person phoned and made the same request and that person was provided with the information.
The Council meeting always starts promptly at 19:00 hrs with the doors open to the public when the CAO arrives. This time the doors were locked with Council and the CAO inside. The door was not opened until a friend of Council, Darcy Graham arrived. The door was then promptly opened.
The seating arrangements provide a clear indication that the media and myself or anybody else that may question Council are not wanted.
There is a soft cushioned chair beside the Deputy Mayor and CAO. This chair can only be sat in by Darcy Graham or her husband. Media had attempted to sit in this chair on another occasion so council discussions could be heard and accurately reported on the council meetings but was told in no uncertain terms by Deputy Mayor, Dave McLeod, that she could not sit there.
Media was banished to the hard metal chairs at the back of the room where, at times, it is impossible to clearly hear what Council is discussing.
On Wednesday’s meeting, Ms. Webster attempted to move her metal chair several feet so she could see past the large high back chair placed conveniently at the back of the council table which muffles any communication.
From the back of the room not all Council or CAO are visible with this high back chair impeding the line of sight.
Immediately the Deputy Mayor yelled at Ms. Webster to put her chair back. Ms. Webster pleaded that she couldn’t hear from where she was seated but this fell on deaf ears.
The meeting continued with much of the conversation being only a mumble.
Ms. Webster had submitted a letter to Council which made it to the agenda but when that item came up it was bypassed without so much as a whisper.
Why was it even on the agenda if there was no intention to speak on it?
At the end of the meeting Ms. Webster asked the CAO if she could have a copy of the agenda, minutes, financial report and accounts payable. The CAO’s response in the presence of Mayor Suzanne Lacher and the Deputy Mayor was a demeaning “NO”!
I would have thought that as council had passed a bylaw, (plus the Municipal Government Act is clear that these documents must be made available to the public) that the Mayor or Deputy Mayor would have stepped in to correct the CAO.
This, of course, did not happen.
A person might say, why not go through the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIPP) Act, then the CAO is obligated to produce the records requested.
The sad part is Ms. Webster has done exactly that by registered mail to the Village Office. The CAO, who is the FOIPP Coordinator, has refused to accept the registered letter and it was returned to Ms. Webster, unopened because the ECA Review community’s name was on the outside of the registered letter.
There is no doubt in my mind that because council has witnessed first hand the behaviour of the CAO and outright refusal to provide what people are entitled to, that they have not only condoned the bullying behaviour but have become bullies themselves.
With every action not corrected by the Mayor and Council, this gives their approval to the CAO to carry on with this bad behaviour.
Ms. Webster tried in vain after the meeting to communicate with Mayor Lacher about being refused her entitlement but the Mayor’s response was that she was too busy.
I put this challenge to the editor of the Drumheller Mail or any other reporter to come to the next council meeting and request copies of the minutes and agenda.
If you get them, why not the editor of ECA Review.
If you don’t get them, my point is made either way.