Good finances, bad communication and ugly accusations in Morrin

Following up on concerns from ratepayers at last month’s council meeting regarding Morrin’s photocopy policy, council put in place a photocopy bylaw to replace the policy that had set fees starting at $56 for the first page.

Because no part of the bylaw was read aloud at first reading,  the public was left to wonder exactly what was in the bylaw as the councillors read the document silently then discussed the bylaw, which for the most part, was inaudible to the public in attendance at the Apr. 20 meeting.

Councillors then each chose a reading, that is first, second or third, agreed to all agree and passed the bylaw.

According to an email from Jerry Ward of Municipal Affairs, although the entire bylaw does not need to be read aloud, the bylaw title and number must be read out at each reading.

“It is a best practice that when a motion is made, it is read aloud, so that everyone (council, administration and the public) has a clear understanding of what is being voted on and a vote taken so that the results are clearly indicated,” stated Ward in his email.

At the end of the meeting prior to council going in camera, this reporter indicated to council the requirement of the MGA to which CAO Annette Plachner responded, “Oh it doesn’t matter”.

Attempts to reach Plachner for comment by phone following the meeting failed and she did not respond to a telephone message prior to press time.

According to Ward, while municipalities have the right to pass a procedural bylaw, which governs how their meetings are conducted, “it does not replace the requirements for all municipalities provided in the MGA.”
Resident Howard Helton appeared before council once again to reiterate his stance that Morrin councillors and CAO are not following MGA procedures.

At last month’s meeting, Helton requested that council investigate the procedures for going in-camera, stating that in-camera discussions must have a subject line included on the agenda which only allows for personnel, legal and land items. Morrin agendas only include the heading ‘in-camera’.

At that time, Mayor Suzzane Lecher stated to Helton that she would contact Municipal Affairs herself to look into the requirement and get back to Helton. As of press time, Helton had not heard anything back from the mayor, nor was the issue addressed at the Apr. 20 meeting.

In his email response to the question of in-camera issues Ward stated, “The agenda is the outline of the council meeting, so if council is going to go in-camera, it should be indicated on the agenda and indicate the section of the FOIP Act [Freedom of Information and Protection Act] that allows them to go in-camera for that subject.

Ugly accusations traded
Helton’s address to council also outlined concerns from ratepayers including: village personnel and equipment being used for personal use by council and administration, council showing favouritism towards ratepayers in the application of the RV Parking Bylaw and the CAO babysitting her grandson in the village office during business hours.

Plachner had some accusations of her own for Helton regarding his time spent as a councillor.

“When you were on council, if you remember correctly, on two different occasions you wanted to hire your friend from Three Hills to do contract work for the village for lighting for the shop and office and you stayed on that for three months and it was one thousand and some dollars more quote than the quotes from Drumheller.”

Helton responded that they were not friends and that his issue was with how the quotes were presented. One quote was more detailed and items within the quotes were not the same, “The two quotes were not laid out equally. We were not quoted the same thing by each one in the detail. I pointed out, he’s not my friend but I knew that they were very capable [of doing the work].”

According to Helton, Deputy Mayor Dave MacLeod requested that council obtain a third quote from a different contractor after the initial two quotes had already been reviewed and made public. In a follow-up phone call, Helton stated that he had resigned from council prior to the contract being awarded but knew the work did not go to either of the initial two contractors.

Faupel, who was present through the debate between Helton and council, offered some observations.

“We want to see the village move on. We need open communication amongst everybody. It’s really important for the continuation of the village itself to have harmony amongst the ratepayers and administration. This is very important to have this, where concerns are addressed and you are able to bring them forward and they can be dealt with.”

“As for adherence to the Municipal Government Act it’s utmost, it’s the most important thing. If there is non adherence to the Municipal Government Act, that must be dealt with,” stated Faupel.

Dealing with and finding solutions to problems is important indicated Faupel, “I’m seeing some communication breakdown and we have to deal with this on an ongoing basis otherwise it’s just going to fester and it’s just going to get worse. You do not want to lose your village. You do not want to lose your autonomy. It’s so important, it’s very, very important.”

Clean audit
Morrin received a clean audit report from auditor Monica Faupel of Endeavor Chartered Accountants at the Apr. 20 regular council meeting.

The 2015 numbers showed financial assets of $1.74 million, liabilities of $984,770, non-financial assets (tangible) at $3.3 million and accumulated surplus, including tangible assets, restricted and unrestricted surpluses totalling $4 million.

Total revenue ended at $408,435 with expenses at $504,164 leaving a shortfall of $95,729. Once government transfers for capital of $179,905 were added in, Morrin showed an overall surplus of $84,176.

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