Councillor asks colleague for apology

Chris Clegg
South Peace News

A Town of High Prairie councillor wants a fellow colleague to apologize “like a grown adult” for a remark made at their budget meeting April 14.

The matter arose at council’s April 28. The meeting was held online, with all calling in on their computers to attend.

Councillor Michael Long asked why a personnel agenda item was in-camera. The item itself had no title on the agenda. Long was told the agenda item involved a staff member and Councillor Debbie Rose. Long, now guessing what the item was about, said the item had no business being dealt with behind closed doors.

Long said Rose should “apologize” and “move on.”

Councillor Brian Gilroy, also now guessing what the item was about, agreed the matter should not be in-camera.

“It was publicly proclaimed,” he said of Rose’s statement at the earlier April 14 meeting.

A source speaking to the News on condition of anonymity, said the matter was indeed about a comment from Rose. Rose had said she did not want any staff member trained by former treasurer Terri Wiebe to handle matters relating to late tax payment plans.

“I [don’t] want to leave it to people trained by Terri,” said Rose.

E-mails sent to all councillors by South Peace News asking if the Rose statement was indeed the issue. It was not denied by any member of council.

After the earlier April 14 meeting, a staff member complained. E-mails were sent between CAO Brian Martinson and councillors to deal with the matter.

Rose did not apologize April 28. It was never made clear at this meeting to whom the apology was to be made.

“I reached out to the mayor [Brian Panasiuk] and asked what the protocol would be,” she said.

She said she was told Martinson had spoken to the employee and as far as she was concerned, the matter was dealt with and done.

It prompted the comment from Long to apologize “like a grown adult”.

Long added he would not take part in any in-camera discussion on the matter, saying it was wrong to do so.

Later, after reports, when the motion was made to go in-camera, Long was not finished. Panasiuk cited the reasons for going in-camera.

“For crying out loud, Brian, you’re our mayor,” said Long.

“We don’t want to publish their name,” replied Panasiuk. “This isn’t something that isn’t going to be negative for the employee at all.”

Rose added she never brought forward a specific name.

“The comment I made had no bearing on one person,” she said. “Staff, that was it.”

Gilroy said again he wasn’t sure the matter should go in-camera and called the motion “abuse of the system”.

Under the Municipal Government Act which governs councils in Alberta, there are only a few strict reasons why a council is allowed to legally go behind closed doors – in-camera. A personnel issue is one of them.

However, council still passed a motion to go in-camera with Long and Gilroy opposed. As promised, Long did not take part, breaking off his remote connection. Gilroy did the same after taking part in the discussion over the motion.

“I am totally against this [motion],” said Gilroy.

Motions for action, to do anything, cannot be made in-camera. No motions arose from after the in-camera session, said Martinson after the meeting.

That was not the only call for an apology. Later in the regular meeting, Gilroy asked for an apology from Long on a different matter. In reference to a previous meeting regarding councillors’ pay, Long stated more pay would attract better councillors. Gilroy said this is an insult to him personally as he is trying his best to serve the community.

Long said many people have taken the same stand regarding pay.

“That statement is not [just] me,” he said, meaning many people say the same thing about better pay attracting better people.

Long added if he offended anyone, he was sorry.

Gilroy was satisfied with the apology.

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