Wheatland County Coun. Glenn Koester spoke to the county’s decision to appeal the Court of King’s Bench ruling in the Koester versus Wheatland County, 2024 ABKB 103 case. 

The county voted 4-2 in favour of the appeal during the March 15 special meeting of council, with Koester having excused himself from the vote after declaring a conflict of interest. 

Through the Alberta courts appeal system, a notice of appeal to a judge’s ruling may be filed within 30 days after judgement is given. 

Following this, a copy of the notice, as well as a copy of the transcript order, and a completed affidavit of service proving the notice has been served on the respondent must be filed at the Court of King’s Bench. 

Within three months of the notice of appeal being filed, the original transcript must also be filed at the Court of King’s Bench, as well as served to the respondent, and to any person(s) the court directs. If the transcript is not filed within three months, the appeal is dismissed. 

Judgement from the court is not able to be enforced until the outcome of the appeal is decided. 

“This is nothing I signed up for, that is for sure … but in the same sense, I think the rate payers are owed an explanation at the end of the day (about) what is going on,” said Koester. 

Koester versus Wheatland County, 2024 ABKB 103 is a case which began in December 2022 about sanctions imposed by the county against Koester following an investigation into a code of conduct violation complaint. 

Details regarding the code of conduct violation complaint, as well as the investigation which followed were withheld from the public by the county. 

At the time of discussions in council, this was considered standard procedure. Koester and fellow councilor, Coun. Richard Laursen advocated for all information surrounding the complaint and subsequent investigation to be made public. 

Ultimately, Koester was sanctioned following discussion by the county in confidence regarding the investigation report, and was removed from all municipal service boards he sat on, representing the county. 

“They sanctioned me and I took objection to it – they would not bring it out of camera so everybody would know why I got such a harsh sanction,” said Koester. “I had two options: one was to visit (the Strathmore Times) and spill everything (and) break confidence, and the other thing was to go to court. I chose to go to court because I thought it would be the high road.”

Information regarding the code of conduct violation complaint were made to be public record, as was included in Koester’s affidavit for the proceedings, sworn July 19, 2022. 

The Court of King’s Bench issued their decision, February 22, which was then filed March 1, about the matter, ruling initially in Koester’s favour and quashing all sanctions against him. 

“I still to this day want the public to know what was in that (investigation) report and let them judge. It was not that big of a deal,” said Koester. “Why all the money? Why all the time, why all the heartbreak? I do not know. I can’t answer that. I am not privy to council’s decisions when they are talking about me.”

No timelines have yet been set regarding when proceedings will next continue to determine whether the appeal is under valid grounds, and what will become of the original judgement. 

During his tenure on council, Koester has served on almost all of the committees for which the council delegates representatives. 

“I fought for the ambulances to stay in Strathmore – that was a long fight, that was 10 or 15 years ago; I have seen the staff get almost parity with the province with their wages … I have seen Sagewood advocating for a new lodge … I was on the local water corporation here and I have seen it formed and we advocated the government since before Strathmore got water from partnerships,” said Koester. “(These sanctions are) affecting my ability to advocate on behalf of the whole county to get these improved … it strangles my ability to work on different projects.”

Koester added he and his lawyer are both confident in their success in court a second time. 

As court proceedings very plausibly may stretch into 2025, being an election year, Koester added he has his doubts about running again to continue his tenure on council.

“The benefit of going through court and, I guess the news that surrounds it – I am hoping that ratepayers take a good hard look at the next election and get out there and vote,” he said. “If this is who you want to run your county, great, vote for them – and if you want somebody else you think could do a better job, go out and support them.”

Wheatland County, via the final operating budget for 2023, recorded $398,300 in total legal expenses. It is not stated in the public document how much of this budget was allocated for the expense of hiring Brownlee LLP to represent them in court.

The county did not respond to requests for comment regarding their decision to appeal the court ruling in the Koester versus Wheatland County, 2024 ABKB 103 case.

By John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Mar 27, 2024 at 12:07

This item reprinted with permission from   Strathmore Times   Strathmore, Alberta

Comments are Welcome - Use the 'Join the Discussion' above any replies, or 'TheRegional / Chat' below replies. Both links take you to the same place. You will be asked to become a registered user if you are not one already - Posts are moderated