Use of in camera difficult concept for Morrin council

Whether Morrin Village council was unaware of the in camera requirements of the Municipal Government Act or simply disregarded them was unclear at the regular council meeting May 19 when council requested that the public leave council chambers for a private discussion between council and the village foreman without motioning to go in camera.

Shortly after calling the meeting to order and accepting the agenda, Mayor Suzanne Lacher requested that the public leave council chambers so council could have a brief, private discussion with the public works foreman Dave Benci.

However, council did not motion to go in camera, which is required under the MGA for subjects of land, legal or personnel.

This reporter asked the mayor if council was going in camera to which the mayor responded ‘no, it was just a private meeting’.

After indicating that council needed to go in camera if they expect the public to leave, this reporter was rebuked by Deputy Mayor Dave MacLeod, “Excuse me, we did not ask you to talk! You are disrupting the meeting!  Please leave!”

Again this reporter stated the public was willing to leave once in camera was called.

After some discussion between council and Benci, Benci stated that he was willing to wait for another meeting where proper procedures could be followed, ending the debate and resulting in the public remaining in council chambers.

No answers for resident
Resident Howard Helton returned to council as a delegation in hopes of getting some answers from council on his previous questions regarding council’s use of in camera sessions, council favouritism towards residents and the use of village resources for personal use.

MacLeod addressed Helton stating, “We got them….you’re issues and we’ve retained legal council and you will be getting an answer,” which promptly ended any further discussion on Helton’s concerns.

Coun. Aldred Bremer was curious to know why Helton, a former village councillor, had quit council rather than remain and try to address issues he had concerns about.

“If things were so bad here at the office, how come you quit council?  If it had been me I would have stayed and tried to see things rectified before you quit.”

Helton responded, “Simply the fact that there was never any change. That’s what I got presented with most every day. Why do people, when they start on here need change?”

“I wasn’t bullied on council, but eventually it would have amounted to the same thing because that’s what’s happening here and you see it now. I felt that these legitimate things, these concerns I had with the feeling that was in council here at the time, the negative effect that you guys were giving me was that I was just – eventually would be spinning my wheels.”

Helton referred to the treatment of Janice Siemens by council during her time in office, which followed Helton’s after he resigned.

“Some of these items Janice brought up. Why was she treated in that manner, for bringing up things that were actually her complete right to have brought up in those meetings, and look how she was badgered and treated.”

“Well, she didn’t last either because she could see where that was going. She was marginalized. She was bullied.”

Helton used MacLeod’s outburst at the March 16 meeting as an example, “Bullying is the sort of thing that

Dave did to me at the other meeting for which I never got an apology. I don’t know how you can call it anything else.”

Use of litigation
One thing that drove Helton to begin his quest to have council address issues was council’s treatment of resident John Siemens.

Siemens originally had concerns about sewer lines repairs that Helton, a councillor at the time, brought to council but the discussion was not recorded in the minutes. Council issued a letter to Siemens stating his concerns were never brought to council.

According to Siemens, Mayor Lacher later admitted that Helton had brought the issue before council, but the minutes were never corrected to reflect that.  At that time, Siemens retained a lawyer for legal advice.

“All that turned around into a peeing contest with him by not just listening to what he had to say in the first place. He didn’t have to be treated the way he’s been treated, to go to litigation. It never should have gone to that.”

“No it should never have gone but he went first,” responded the mayor, “Well it’s in the lawyers hands now,” stated Lacher.

Busy with spring projects
Benci gave a detailed report on work completed around the village including ways to deal with dandelions.

Options include spraying or using a drag bar to minimize spray drift.

Levelling out ruts and mounds where grass needs mowing is also a project Benci has started in order to allow for easier mowing, including ways to deal with more hard packed areas.

Benci clarified with council how to access asphalt from Starland County in order to complete pothole filling. Council indicated Benci just needed to ask and the county would charge the village accordingly.

As well, Benci has steadily been working through repairs and upgrades to bring the village into accordance with an Occupational Health and Safety inspection order.

Bylaw passed
Council worked through all three readings to pass Procedural Bylaw 352.  The By-law was not read out loud at the meeting nor was it provided to the reporter by press time.

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