“Perception of bias” leads to resignation

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A letter to Coronation Council has caused backs to be raised and led to the Mayor’s resignation from key physician recruitment committees.

Tempers were running hot at the Monday, January 28 meeting of Coronation Council as the letter from Paintearth County Council was discussed. The letter, dated January 16 and signed by Deputy County Reeve Walter Weber, expressed a concern about Coronation Mayor Dawna Elliot’s appointment to the Coronation Doctor Recruitment & Retention Committee.

The letter suggested that Mayor Elliott might have a pecuniary interest by being a member of the physician recruitment committee due to her employment at the Coronation Medical Clinic. The letter also stated that Paintearth County may consider withdrawing from the committee due to “perceived perception of bias and conflict” if Elliott remains a member.

Members of Coronation council expressed their anger at the letter, describing it as ‘inappropriate’ and ‘heavy handed.’

Originally entered into the agenda as a confidential legal matter, the issue was moved to the public portion of the meeting by Mayor Elliott as she didn’t see any reason for the item to the discussed behind closed doors (in-camera).

Councillor Bonnie Danylyshen stated that she was ‘disgusted’ by the letter, stating that such a broad interpretation of the Municipal Governance Act might also preclude her from sitting on any physician recruitment committees due to her employment at Coronation’s long term care facility.

“It’s really poor of the County to take this approach,” said Councillor Dylan Bullick, speaking to the Mayor. “There’s nobody better to serve on this committee than you.”

Councillor Bullick also accused County of ‘stifling progress.’

In an interview with the Review, Mayor Elliott said that she didn’t know why the County felt the need to send the letter.

“I wasn’t privy to their discussion,” she said. “I have not had a discussion with anybody in the county in regards to this.”

Section 170(1) of the Alberta Municipal Government Act states that councillors have a pecuniary interest in a matter if it could monetarily affect the councillor, the councillor’s family or the councillor’s employer.

As for now, the Mayor has officially tendered her resignation from both the Coronation Doctor Recruitment/Retention Committee and the 3-Cs Physician Recruitment Committee.

“The town needs a doctor more than it needs me on the committee,” she said. “I have rescinded myself from these committees simply because I was not going to put this town, the recruitment committee and the hospital in jeopardy.”

As for how she plans to handle the letter, Elliott declined to discuss specifics.

“I’m going to leave it open for now,” she said. “I’m not going to say that I’ve closed all the doors for this issue for me personally.”

County of Paintearth CAO Tarolyn Peach told the Review that the letter was sent only to inform Coronation Council of their concern about a possible conflict of interest.

“There may be a perceived perception of conflict or bias,” Peach said. “We just wanted to bring it to their attention.”



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