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Tax Debts Prompt Second Call for Councillor’s Removal

Rocky View County Council is calling for Samanntha Wright to be disqualified as a County councillor, following her failure to pay property taxes.

Under Alberta’s Municipal Government Act and Local Authorities Election Act, a councillor is ineligible for office if they owe a debt to the municipality of more than $50.

Councillor Wright is an owner of property with tax debts to the County far exceeding the $50 benchmark. The issue was uncovered last week as County administration was following the regular annual process of registering tax recovery notifications on properties that are two years in tax arrears.

The County sends a series of letters and notices to those who have not paid their property taxes, but the process is based on tax roll numbers. After two years of non-payment, the debt is registered with Alberta Land Titles, and the names of the property owners become a more apparent part of the process.

Once it became clear the taxes and late penalties were on a property owned by a councillor, administration immediately brought the matter to the attention of legal counsel for an opinion, which was shared with councillors at a Special Council Meeting today.

After a closed session to discuss the matter, Council voted to ask Samanntha Wright to resign by January 28. Should she refuse, Council directed the matter be referred to the Court of Queen’s Bench to seek the councillor’s removal from office.

“Last week Council asked Councillor Wright to resign over pecuniary interest issues involving her property. This week we discover the same property is in tax arrears, putting her in violation of the Municipal Government Act’s provisions regarding the Local Authorities Election Act. We have no choice but to again ask her to resign, and to apply to the court should she refuse,” says Rocky View County Reeve Greg Boehlke.

“These are serious matters, but there is also an issue of trust,” Reeve Boehlke says. “As councillors, we set tax rates and require property owners to pay for the many programs and services Rocky View County offers. We can’t maintain roads, offer fire and police protection, or provide recreation opportunities without these funds. For a councillor to take a salary from tax dollars while not paying their own property taxes for two years is deeply concerning.”

County administration has now implemented a process to annually monitor councillor tax debts to the municipality. That process has confirmed that no other councillors are in violation of the debt provisions of the Local Authorities Election Act.

“Other councillors and I will continue to work hard for the people of Rocky View County despite these issues and distractions. But I know the confidence Rocky Viewers have in their municipal government will be much improved once these matters are resolved by the court,” Reeve Boehlke says.

Background “A”

January 20 Council Motion

WHEREAS:

  1. Pursuant to Section 174(1)(b) of the Municipal Government Act, RSA 2000, c.M-26 (the “MGA”), a Councillor is disqualified from Council if the Councillor ceases to be eligible for nomination as a candidate under the Local Authorities Election Act, RSA 2000, c. L-21 (“LAEA”).
  2. Pursuant to Section 22(1)(c) of the LAEA, a person is not eligible to be nominated as a candidate in any election if on nomination day the person is indebted to the municipality of which the person is an elector for taxes in default exceeding $50.
  3. Pursuant to Section 175(1) of the MGA, a Councillor that is disqualified must resign immediately.
  4. Pursuant to Section 175(2) of the MGA, if the Councillor does not resign immediately, then Council may apply to a Judge of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta for an Order declaring the person to be disqualified from Council.
  5. Councillor Wright owns property in the County as one of two owners on title.
  6. Councillor Wright has not paid property taxes owing on her property for 2018 or 2019. Including penalties, the total property tax arrears for Councillor Wright’s property are $10,572.27.
  7. Councillor Wright is indebted to the County for taxes in default exceeding $50.
  8. Councillor Wright is not eligible for nomination as a candidate under the LAEA.
  9. Councillor Wright is therefore disqualified.
  10. Councillor Wright has not resigned.

IT IS HEREBY MOVED that if Councillor Wright does not resign from Council prior to the start of the meeting on January 28, 2020, then Council directs the CAO to instruct legal counsel to apply to a Judge of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta declaring Councillor Wright to be disqualified from Council.

Background “B”

Click here for information on the previous disqualification matter involving pecuniary interest.

Posted in: Council Council News Media Releases

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