Wheatland County has voted in favour to appeal the decision of the Court of King’s Bench in the matter of Koester versus Wheatland County, 2024 ABKB 103. 

On Feb. 22, the Court of King’s Bench issued their decision in the matter, which was then filed on March 1. 

Wheatland County voted to appeal the decision, 4-2 in favour, during their March 15 special council meeting. 

Councilors Rick Laursen and Shannon Laprise were opposed, while Reeve Amber Link, Deputy Reeve Scott Klassen, Coun. Tom Ikert, and Coun. Donna Biggar were in favour. 

Coun. Glenn Koester excused himself from the vote, having declared a conflict of interest, as the decision to appeal the court’s ruling directly involved him. 

In a public release, dated March 15, the county stated they believe an appeal is “the most appropriate step to bring this matter to a fair conclusion for all parties, including the residents of Wheatland County whom we serve.”

Prior to the discussion and the vote, county council debated whether to accept their March 15 meeting agenda, with an amendment to have the discussion with their legal counsel moved out of in camera, and into the public record. 

Laursen brought the motion to the floor, justifying it as the matter of Koester versus Wheatland County is entirely public record, as per the court’s documents. 

He added he believed appealing the court’s decision to be a misuse of the public’s tax dollars, requesting the county’s prior legal expenses regarding the case to be discussed openly. 

Laursen’s motion was ultimately defeated 5-1, and the discussion with the county’s legal counsel was held in camera. 

Koester originally challenged the county, beginning December 2022 about sanctions imposed against him as a result following a code of conduct violation complaint investigation. Koester, through the sanctions, was removed from all municipal boards he participated on. 

The original code of conduct violation complaint was filed by Link, March 1, 2022. The reasons for the complaint, as well as the following investigation were withheld from the public until Koester challenged the county in court. 

A full summary of the issues regarded in the complaint was published in the Feb. 8, 2023 edition of the Strathmore Times. 

“It is the responsibility of council to protect the integrity of county governance in order to best serve our community and the public interest. We do so through a commitment to transparency and by upholding the principles of fairness and accountability,” as was stated by the county in the release.

“I fully respect Coun. Koester’s right to appeal the decisions that council made and to the fact that he did that through judicial review at Court of King’s Bench is the recognized appeal mechanism, and I fully respect and support that,” said Link. “I also respect the position that county council also has a responsibility to protect the governance of both our council, but also the jurisdiction of municipalities in Alberta under our legislation … balancing those is just as fair to acknowledge that Wheatland County has the right and that appeal mechanism is there for a reason.”

By John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Mar 20, 2024 at 19:50

This item reprinted with permission from   Strathmore Times   Strathmore, Alberta

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