Three sanctioned Rocky View County (RVC) councillors will no longer be allowed to represent the County at the Fall Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) Convention in Edmonton, after a change of mind by Couns. Daniel Henn and Mark Kamachi.
During a regular meeting Oct. 22, council voted 6-3 to rescind an earlier motion allowing Couns. Crystal Kissel, Samanntha Wright and Kevin Hanson to attend the conference and have the County cover their travel expenses. The decision stemmed from a notice of motion by Henn and Kamachi who, after originally voting to approve the travel and expenses, had reconsidered their position.
Kissel said she was disappointed by the decision.
“I do not understand it,” she said. “It just came off looking spiteful, which is sad. It’s sad for the community as a whole that this is where we are.”
On June 11, Hanson, Wright and Kissel were sanctioned for breaches of council’s Code of Conduct. One of the sanctions stated “council may authorize representation or travel on behalf of, or expensed to RVC, upon receiving a request for representation or travel” by the sanctioned councillors, and “authorization must be received through a council resolution.”
During council’s Sept. 24 meeting, Kissel made a motion to allow the three councillors to attend and be reimbursed for the conference. At the time, the motion was carried 5-4, with Henn and Kamachi supporting their sanctioned colleagues.
However, at the following council meeting, Oct. 8, Henn and Kamachi introduced a notice of motion to rescind the earlier motion on the basis that “the majority of council have reconsidered their position.”
Henn said he’d reconsidered his previous position “due to the fact that Couns. Wright, Kissel and Hanson have not only failed to acknowledge the transgressions that brought about their sanctions, [but] they continue to perpetuate the idea that somehow they have been wronged [and] this council has acted in bad faith,” and have not publicly apologized as required by the sanctions.
At the time, Wright made a point of privilege, pointing out RVC’s Procedure Bylaw allows councillors to submit a notice of motion to rescind a motion made at an earlier meeting.
“This motion appears to meet that requirement,” she said. “However, actions have been taken as a result of the original motion, and [the following section] of the Procedure Bylaw makes it clear a motion to rescind cannot undo actions already taken.”
Registration and accommodations for three councillors had already been booked, Wright said.
“Everything needed to carry out the original motion has already been undertaken,” she said. “They cannot be reversed through a motion to rescind, therefore a motion to rescind is pointless.”
According to Reeve Greg Boehlke, Wright was correct, but because convention fees for the three councillors hadn’t been paid, it was inapplicable, adding the hotel rooms that had been booked would be used by RVC staff.
Wright also took issue with the wording of the notice of motion, saying the majority of council had not in fact changed their minds on how they voted.
“Three of the five votes in favour of the motion have not reconsidered their position; the four councillors who voted against the motion have not reconsidered their position,” she said. “Only two councillors in the majority have reconsidered their position. Two of nine is not the majority. Just because two councillors appear to regret the decision they made, does not make it the majority that has reconsidered their position.”
She also pointed out the Procedure Bylaw requires councillors to “set out what special or exceptional circumstances warrant reconsideration of the original motion,” and argued the notice of motion did not include such information.
Council voted 5-3 to approve the notice of motion, with Wright, Hanson and Kissel opposed. Coun. Kim McKylor was absent from the meeting.
At the time, Boehlke limited debate on the item, saying it could be debated Oct. 22. However, when it came time to consider the notice of motion at the recent meeting, he advised council debate would be limited to “the merit of the original motion, nothing else,” citing the Procedure Bylaw. Section 161 of that bylaw states a motion to rescind is “debatable only on the merits of the original motion that is proposed to be rescinded.”
When Wright tried to reiterate her concerns, Boehlke cut her off.
Kissel did discuss the merits of the original motion, saying it was important for councillors to attend the conference.
“There’s a lot to be learned; it’s not just a good ol’ time for three days,” she said. “I’ve registered for classes, and I was pleased that that happened…. I would hope the council would support the original motion and allow us to continue to go to RMA as the first motion stated.”
Kissel’s appeal had no effect, as council voting 6-3 to rescind the travel approval – Kissel, Wright and Hanson were opposed.
Despite arguments by Kissel that the convention provides education on provincial issues, the opportunity to interact with other municipal councillors and face time with MLA’s, Boehlke maintained revoking permission not only didn’t impede their duties under the Municipal Government Act (MGA), it wasn’t necessary for them to do their jobs effectively.
“They don’t need to go to these conventions to have value to their residents,” he said.
Municipal Affairs confirmed the three councillor’s legislated duties weren’t being impacted – according to Timothy Gerwing with the ministry, the applicable section of the MGA “does not state that conference attendance is a legislated duty.”
Kissel said it was unclear if the three councillors could still attend the conference in an informal capacity, and Hanson said the three councillors are considering whether to make the trek to Edmonton, but added, without being reimbursed for expenses, cost could be prohibitive. Boehlke said, since the convention is for delegates and the three councillors no longer have permission to attend, he didn’t believe there was a process for them to attend informally.