By Kenyon Stronski
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
It’s been a rocky start for the newly elected Taber town council, with a member already coming under scrutiny after the Oct. 25 regular meeting of council — which was also the date the councillors are sworn in. At the Monday, Nov. 15 special meeting of council — Coun. Jack Brewin was sanctioned for a breach in Code of Conduct that has led to the requirement of a written apology to the mayor, council, administration, and the people of Taber by the Nov. 22 regular meeting of council. The motion was passed with Brewin granted the ability to abstain from the vote.
According to the Alberta Municipal Affairs, “Under the MGA (Municipal Government Act), a councillor is required to vote on all resolutions and bylaws unless required or permitted to abstain from voting under other legislated provisions or the Code of Conduct Bylaw. Council must ensure that each abstention and the reason for it are recorded in the minutes of the meeting.”
The discussion took place for around an hour in closed session. A choice that Mayor Andrew Prokop noted was standard practice.
“The reason it was done in closed session was because it dealt with personnel and potential legal involvement. This is the standard practice during any similar circumstance.”
The written apology required by Brewin may also not be enough for some, who believe that it is akin to a slap on the wrist.
“Everyone is entitled to their opinion,” stated Prokop. “But that was what the council decided on during the lengthy deliberation that carried on over the closed session. There is also not much that can be said due to the confidential nature of this matter. But I am trying to be as transparent as I can.”
In the Council Code of Conduct bylaw, it states “Disciplinary actions may be taken against any councillor found to be in breach of the Code of Conduct. Appropriate disciplinary action will be imposed by council by resolution. The sanctions imposed by council may include but will not be limited to: a) a public apology issued by the councillor, either verbally or in writing; b) a letter of reprimand addressed to the councillor and recorded in the minutes of the council meeting at which the reprimand is issued, in addition to any other form of public notification of the reprimand that council may elect to utilize;c) mandatory training pertaining to the type of offence (i.e.: harassment, ethical, or legal training); d) where applicable, the return of any inappropriate or unreported gift or benefit; e) suspension or removal of the councillor from some or all council committees and bodies to which council has the right to appoint members; f) a reduction or suspension of remuneration as defined in section 275.1 of the Municipal Government Act corresponding to a reduction in duties, excluding allowances for attendance at council meetings. g) suspension or removal of the appointment of the councillor as the deputy chief elected official or acting chief elected official under section 152 of the Municipal Government Act, h) suspension or removal of the Mayor’s presiding duties under section 154 of the Municipal Government Act; i) suspension or removal of the mayor from his/her membership on council committees or other bodies under section 154(2) of the MGA. 17.12, the council resolution must detail a timeframe for all disciplinary actions along with the specified disciplinary actions. 17.13 Disqualification of a councillor from council shall only be in accordance with Section 174 of the Municipal Government Act.”
There is also the question as to whether or not Brewin swearing in was legally binding, as he appeared to be under the influence of some substance.
“In it’s entirety, the bottom line would be that the lawyer Mr. Mark Baldry is the one taking care of the swearing in portion and as long as that gentlemen is satisfied and signs off on it, it is binding accordingly.”