Council Reviewing Court Ruling on Sanctions
Friday, July 17, 2020
Rocky View County Council is reviewing a complex 47-page Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench ruling on sanctions imposed on councillors Kevin Hanson, Crystal Kissel, and Samanntha Wright.
On June 11, 2019, Council voted to sanction the three councillors under the Council Code of Conduct Bylaw for providing privileged County legal information to unauthorized parties, and for disrespectful and discourteous communications. Subsequently, the County’s Chief Administrative Officer put a new procedure in place for the sanctioned councillors to seek and receive information from the CAO and staff. The sanctioned councillors challenged these actions in Court.
On the suggestion that the CAO’s process for communication with councillors was somehow harmful to the constituents of the County, the Court found no substantial evidence that the residents of the electoral divisions represented by the sanctioned councillors were materially impacted.
On the Council sanctions, the Court found there was a valid and rational basis for the complaints against councillors Hanson, Kissel, and Wright, and that Council had not acted in bad faith in applying sanctions.
The Court found a direct connection between the breaches of the Code of Conduct and the sanctions imposed, calling it a “rational path.” Specifically, the Court found that Council’s actions in removing the councillors from boards and committees was a rational sanction for breaching confidentiality, and the adjustment of pay to compensate for this reduced workload was similarly rational. The Court also found that restrictions on travel and attendance at conferences were rational sanctions in response to disrespectful communications.
The Court did not find actual bias on the part of the investigator hired by Council to look into the issues involved. Many of the sanctions have expired during the litigation time, but the judge set aside the sanctions, referencing concerns about a perception of bias.
Rocky View County Council is now reviewing the Court’s full decision before determining next steps.