Wheatland County has released a statement regarding the ongoing legal conflict, following the decision to appeal the Court of King’s Bench ruling in the Koester versus Wheatland County, 2024 ABKB 103 case.

During the March 15 special meeting of council, the county voted 4-2 in favour of the appeal. Koester excused himself from the vote, citing a conflict of interest to the decision.

As discussions were taking place regarding whether to approve the appeal, Coun. Richard Laursen inferred that taxpayer dollars would be utilized for the conflict to continue. 

“Although council did not initiate this court process, county procedure dictates that we defend decisions made at council,” said Reeve Amber Link. “To be clear, the county has not incurred legal fees related to this appeal or for defending the case brought by Koester. Like most municipalities across Alberta, Wheatland County is insured against legal claims of this nature.”

In the written statement released by the county, it is also noted that all councillors should be aware of this insurance, and administration has communicated it clearly to all of council. 

Reeve Link added she regretted not calling out the comment made by Laursen when it was made, stating the comment was misleading. 

The statement by the county also addressed misconceptions about the impact the court proceedings and sanctions against Koester have had on the ability of councillors to fulfill their roles and duties. 

“I want to clarify that these sanctions did not impede a councillor’s ability to work on projects and advocate for the community,” said Link. “Legislation that council operates under requires that any sanction imposed against a councillor may not impede their duty to govern as an elected official.”

It was also noted in the county’s statement, Koester has raised no concerns regarding the procedures for investigating a violation of the code of conduct bylaw while reviewing and approving the code of conduct bylaw on an annual basis.

The statement made by the county cites a 2015 code of conduct issue, which occurred while Koester was reeve, suggesting statements made then contradict his current position on how the code of conduct violation was handled. 

That incident being the censure of Brenda Knight by Wheatland County council. At the time, Koester had stated code of conduct violations being held in-camera were typical of a labour discussion. Legal negotiations would also go in-camera to be discussed with a lawyer. 

Though the details of the censure at that time were not made public, the censure was eventually lifted by council.

Link declined to comment further regarding council’s position on the current legal proceedings such as to not accidentally compromise the integrity of the investigation.

(With files from the Strathmore Times, April 16, 2015 and Nov. 5, 2015)

By John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Apr 10, 2024 at 15:03

This item reprinted with permission from   Strathmore Times   Strathmore, Alberta

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