A press release by Wildrose Justice Critic Shayne Saskiw on September 12, 2013 said that documents were obtained from the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP) that potentially demonstrated political activity in support of PC MLA Jack Hayden on County time, with County resources. The press release noted that a Facebook page for Hayden, as well as partisan messages, were drafted and communicated during work time.
Saskiw said that Wildrose had requested some documents through FOIP “to ensure that no taxpayer dollars that went to municipalities had… flowed to political parties for partisan purposes.”
“We found it very strange that [Stettler] County would be doing everything to fight what I would suggest is a reasonable FOIP request,” said Saskiw, “including actually hiring a lawyer to prevent the information from being brought forward.”
The Wildrose press release also said that other correspondence discovered showed that the County Reeve Wayne Nixon and County administration were “considering having County employees no longer using email communications to evade creating FOIP-able records.”
“To try to not have disclosure by not using emails seems to be an extraordinary way to not be openly transparent,” says Saskiw, “essentially [we’re] asking, if there’s nothing there then why do you have to hide it?”
In response to these allegations County Reeve Wayne Nixon, from Donalda – Red Willow, said that MLA Hayden would not expect any work to be done during work hours. “Jack would expect nothing of the kind,” said Nixon, “And if something was done it was inadvertently done… the sum total of [Wildrose’s] allegations is one email that they found.”
Nixon said that he felt Wildrose’s use of FOIP was frivolous. “We’re open to the public, our books are open to the public,” said Nixon, “if they were to come forward instead of… trying to look around with these FOIPs… probing is what they were doing, for information, and on a witch hunt.” Nixon said he made the offer of sitting down with County staff and going through the books a couple of times.
Nixon said that the County has more important issues that need attending to including health care, education and seniors housing.Nixon said he tried to speak to MLA Rick Strankman about the time it would take to look up documents through FOIP. “Mr.Strankman… took it upon himself to say that he had statutory declarations that said that county people were working during office hours and with county equipment to support Jack Hayden’s campaign,” Nixon said, “[he] threatened to put that on the front page of the Edmonton Journal… he said ‘How would you like it if I put that on the front page of the Edmonton Journal’ and I said ‘I guess you’re going to have to do what you want to do.’”