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Chestermere is managed ‘unfairly’ and ‘improperly’, the minister for civil affairs saysOUS News

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Following a month-long investigation into allegations of misconduct by the Chestermere city council, Alberta’s city minister said the city was governed in “unfair, improper and unfair ways” and that its leaders must comply with 12 ethical guidelines in now.

The results of the inspection – which the province called a rare and surprising measure – were shared with hundreds of Chestermere residents on Wednesday, during a public meeting in the lakeside community east of Calgary.

The investigation was launched last spring, after the district received several complaints from Chestermere residents and determined that the district council was “inactive“The inspection took place between last May and September.

It found 25 cases of misconduct by local government, including at least 17 legislative violations.

“I fully admit that many members of the city council have been elected for the first time. They are new to the business of city management when the problems started,” said the minister of the city Rebecca Schulz.

“But at the same time, the problems have been going on for 18 months now and that’s enough. We need to deal with them.”

Each city council member saw the first draft of the report in November and was given the opportunity to share their input with the community.

The news

In the 215 page review reportCity management consultant George Cuff analyzed Chestermere’s management from the time the council was appointed in October 2021 to when the report was submitted in September 2022.

Cuff pointed out a strong division among the council members, where he perceived it to be “a block of three councils.” He said some councilors reported feeling bullied and humiliated by the mayor and other council members.

Its findings also show Mayor Jeff Colvin motivated several policies “by having private discussions on council topics with certain members, by lobbying only certain council members on issues rather than the entire council, by bullying one or more board members.”

Cuff said Colvin believes significant change has to be made if he is to be a successful leader, and that can be done if he can maintain close supporters on the board.

During the review period, Cuff said 62 employees left the organization – four retired, 19 left indefinitely and 39 left on their own terms.

A summary of the seven members of the Chestermere town council.
Chestermere town council. Left column from top: Mel Foat, Blaine Funk, Sandy Johal-Watt. Center: Mayor Jeff Colvin. Right from top: Shannon Dean, Stephen Hanley, Ritesh Narayan. (City of Chestermere)

Some of the other major concerns identified in the report include:

  • An informal chief executive officer (CAO) model, with management duties completed by some board members.
  • Improper procedure of handling code-of-conduct complaints.
  • Incorrect communication and miscommunication between board members and staff.
  • Improper and unfair treatment of staff by board members.
  • Late submissions of audited financial statements.

The report also made 16 recommendations, aimed at improving local governance.

“We hope and pray that the board can begin to understand its power as a collective group, as opposed to individual players focusing on their own agendas.”

First Guides for the City of Chestermere

Chestermere city council and management now must act on it twelve directions issued by Schulz by the given deadlines.

The guidelines include hiring a consultant to review the effectiveness of the city’s three-CAO system, as well as a consultant to deal with conflict among council members.

The city must also send a list to a minister of all code-of-conduct complaints, and a list of all land sales, with various details, since last October.

2022 photo of Alberta's Minister of Public Affairs Rebecca Schulz.
Minister for Urban Affairs Rebecca Schulz has introduced a 12-point strategy for Chestermere council and management on Wednesday, four months after the first report was delivered to council members. (Mike Symington/CBC)

The council must review its current constitution, and councils are not able to perform any duties assigned to CAOs.

To ensure that the city is taking action, it must provide a progress report to the minister by the 20th of every second month until all processes are completed to the minister’s satisfaction.

If the guidelines are not followed, Schulz said that further sanctions could be taken – including the dismissal of councilors and CAOs.

‘Primary concern’ with reporting, findings

According to an e-mail statement from the City of Chestermere, the mayor and the council have some “primary concern” with some of the findings of the report, the process of review, the recommendations in the report and the directives of the minister.

But as recommended by Cuff and Schulz, the city council will consult immediately with legal advice about traffic and guidelines.

“The legal council will review the options, although at this point no decision has been made about any actions and no decisions will be made without due consideration,” the statement said.

The statement said the city remains committed to providing good governance to the residents of Chestermere.