Bissell’s point is well taken

Enilda – Big Meadow Councillor Donald Bissell said something very interesting at Big Lakes County council’s July 24 meeting.

“Anytime anyone gets a fine they should get the appeal process,” said Bissell.

“Sometimes someone gets a fine and they don’t know what to do,” he added.

On the surface, it is difficult to argue Bissell’s point. Actually, it’s virtually impossible. The most fundamental aspect of the criminal justice system [yes, I will compare the justice system and county bylaws despite what one may argue] is the right of appeal, or at least the right to have your day in court to state your case. As many have said including a well-known family south of town, “We don’t live in Russia!”

Back to the July 24 meeting.

“There is no appeal process,” replied Pat Olansky, director of planning and development.

“There should be,” replied Bissell.

While there is no “official” appeal process in regard to county fines, one can make the case there certainly is an “unofficial” appeal process. It is a case of semantics.

A case in point. At the same meeting council heard Rick and Carol Babkirk did not get a development permit and were slapped with a $500 penalty. As pointed out by Bissell, there is no appeal.

Ah, but there actually is, with all due respect to Bissell and Olansky! The couple wrote a letter to council stating their case. In this case, writing a letter to council is the appeal process.

Such a letter could also be handled by administration, so there are two avenues of appeal open to residents.

The Babkirks were successful in getting the penalty waived but not permit fee. In effect, they won the appeal.

Bissell’s suggestion to inform any offending party of violating a county bylaw is certainly not wrong. It only makes sense to inform the offending party there is an avenue of appeal if they disagree with the penalty.

In our world, it is not acceptable to have the power to penalize a party and then grant them no right to have their say. To penalize someone and then say, “Shut up and pay the fine” is not right.

The county, and any municipality for that matter, must have rules and regulations for citizens to follow to avoid an all out free-for-all. There must be some order.

However, it must be made clear to those same residents they do have rights if they disagree. Bissell’s suggestion to have an appeal process in place should be made part of any penalty.

Currently, Bissell’s suggestion did not go any further, at least for the time being. He should not let the matter die a quick death. There is no excuse for heavy-handed policies although citizens should be aware they can always approach council with concerns.

Rather, council should pass a policy informing residents of an appeal process. As Bissell suggests, you get informed of the penalty, then tell them they can appear before administration and/or council to appeal. Council then becomes the appeal board or jury.

If council settles for anything less it is a disservice and falls far short of the municipality’s reason for existing: to help its residents.

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