Council Details Censuring Action
Friday, June 21, 2019
Rocky View County Council is providing details on its censure and sanction action against three councillors now that the matter has become the subject of public debate.
The original intent of Council was to give the censured and sanctioned councillors a fairly low-key rebuke, with the hopes that issues could be quickly resolved and Council could move forward with the important work of the municipality. However, with special interest groups taking out advertisements in an attempt to politicize the matter, and the sanctioned councillors publicly speaking on the issue, the majority of Council felt the need to provide more specific details.
At their June 11 meeting, Council voted to censure and sanction councillors Kevin Hanson, Crystal Kissel, and Samanntha Wright for providing privileged County legal information to unauthorized parties, and for disrespectful and discourteous communication.
The first breach involved three councillors sharing a Council legal opinion, clearly marked privileged and confidential, with a lawyer who was not affiliated with Rocky View County.
Some claims have been made that sanctions were aimed at preventing councillors from seeking legal advice, but Council stresses that is not the case and is not the basis for the censure and sanction actions.
A councillor can seek legal advice, but they cannot share the County’s own confidential legal advice with others without the consent of Council. Legal confidentiality is essential in order for Council to be able to have full and frank discussions on complex issues, with the goal of choosing the very best path forward for the municipality and County residents.
The actions of the three sanctioned councillors was made even more serious when a Notice of Motion was published with comments referring to the confidential legal opinion. This caused the Notice of Motion to be removed from the Council agenda several weeks ago in an attempt to protect what was left of the confidentiality of a legal opinion.
The majority of Council considered the action a complete and total disregard for the Council Code of Conduct, prompting the councillor censure on this matter.
The second censure and sanction action against councillors Hanson, Kissel, and Wright involved the tone of their communication.
Council stresses that the issue was not about what was said by the three councillors, but rather how it was said.
Rocky View County Council’s Code of Conduct and communication policies are specifically designed to ensure councillors are never censored in their ideas or opinions on how to best govern the municipality. But those same documents are clear about the need for respectful communication as a key element of maintaining an effective Council.
Council has no concerns with councillors writing letters to the editor and expressing their opinions regarding Council direction and decisions. But it is a breach of the Code of Conduct to deliberately and purposely disrespect Council, other councillors, or staff in these communications.
Councillors can disagree, but a functioning Council is one that disagrees in a respectful and professional manner.
Censuring and sanction actions are never taken lightly. Council views them as a last resort in ongoing efforts to re-establish appropriate relationships among all councillors. Council made the decision to impose sanctions against the three councillors after much consideration, and following the appointment of an independent law firm to look into the concerns. Given the seriousness and impacts of the breaches, Council had little choice but to act.
Councillors unanimously passed the current Code of Conduct as mandated by the Municipal Government Act, and in doing so agreed to abide by the Code, and face the consequences that may result from not following it. All of the sanctions applied are in line with legislation and the regulations stipulated by Alberta Municipal Affairs.
The censure and sanctions removed the three councillors from boards and committees, with a reduction in pay to reflect the reduced workload. Council has taken special care to ensure that the sanctioned councillors can continue to fully participate in Council Meetings and effectively represent the people of Rocky View County.
Council hopes councillors Hanson, Wright, and Kissel will comply with the sanctions and work towards restoring their relationships with the rest of Council. In remediating the concerns raised, Council has requested direct letters of apology on some matters, and public letters of apology on others, from the three councillors.