Stettler county council decided it will closely review it’s code of conduct policy, citing issues facing neighbouring municipalities and changes to major legislation. 

The resolution to proceed with a review was passed at the March 13 regular meeting of council.

Reeve Larry Clarke began the discussion about the County of Stettler’s councillor code of conduct policy by noting he asked that the issue be placed on the meeting agenda. 

Clarke stated that with issues involving councillor conduct going on in other communities, the reeve said he wanted to ensure the County of Stettler’s code of conduct policy was “bullet-proof.”

Clarke added that with changes to the Municipal Government Act (MGA) since the code of conduct’s approval, perhaps a legal review including an expert opinion might also be in order.

Coun. Ernie Gendre stated he supported a review, including details such as a dress code for councillors at county meetings; Gendre noted he personally was in favour of dress code rules including a prohibition on the wearing of hats during the council meeting.

Coun. Les Stulberg also agreed a review was a good idea and suggested it be done during a “Committee of the Whole” (COW) meeting. 

Readers should note COW meetings are common at many municipalities and generally are used for issues that could include lengthy presentations or debates, and usually don’t include any resolutions; any resolutions usually have to be forwarded to regular council meetings as recommendations.

Manager of Municipal Services Andrew Brysiuk asked that councillors, if they made a motion about this issue, be specific and include whether a legal review including experts such as lawyers be included. 

Brysiuk added that it could be interesting to hear an expert discuss case law surrounding issues like councillor code of conduct.

The reeve again noted many different issues and some changes to important laws have cropped up since the current county policy was developed and approved.

Coun. Justin Stevens stated that he supported the idea of a review of the councillor code of conduct and also felt it was fair to leave it up to the staff to find legal experts to present to council. 

However, Stevens, referring to things like a dress code, stated that he felt no code of conduct policy could ever be “100 per cent black and white” and that some parts of such a code will always be open to interpretation; Steven pointed out what is considered “professional” attire at a meeting could be open to interpretation.

Reeve Clarke agreed, noting that some parts of a code of conduct, such as a dress code, will be up to councillors to decide.

County Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Yvette Cassidy stated that some neighbouring municipalities have recently conducted a “governance review” with the help of an expert on municipal governments; she noted the County of Stettler has invited Municipal Affairs (MA) to examine the County of Stettler’s policies and ways of doing business but has yet to get a commitment from the provincial ministry.

Coun. Stulberg suggested councillors hear the legal opinion first, which may help in identifying a direction for the code of conduct review.

Councillors unanimously approved a review of the councillor code of conduct policy to be done during an upcoming COW meeting.

By Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Mar 20, 2024 at 13:24

This item reprinted with permission from   East Central Alberta Review   Coronation, Alberta

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