Town councillor Marni Fedeyko was shell-shocked by a discussion on her notice of motion for a public vote on whether each town councillor remained confident in the leadership of town CAO Mike Derrricott.
The motion was defeated 6-0, but not before some length, well-prepared presentations by Mayor Jeff Genung, Susan Flowers, and Patrick Wilson, and the sudden departure of Councillor Fedeyko from the council chamber during the mayor's 10-minute dissection of her motion.
It also sparked frank comments by Councillor Morgan Nagel over the town's 2022 audited statement and the need to update the town's 10-year financial strategy.
Fedeyko had anticipated tabling the motion last night, and for it to be discussed at the Oct. 10 council meeting. Instead, it was moved to the top of the agenda for a vote.
"All of a sudden the agenda's been bumped," she said."I had no idea the agenda was being bumped. I feel a little caught off guard by what you're doing and I never asked you or any member of council to do anything at the last meeting. I was just putting it on the floor. I feel like you're putting me on the spot right now. I'm sure you have your own thoughts on that, though."
Mayor Genung said he was following town procedure.
Councillor Fedeyko said the information she would be presenting was already public knowledge, including Derricott’s expense claims and the town's 2022 audit, and she would not support going in-camera to discuss the motion. It didn't.
Mayor Genung said there was no need for the motion and that town council has several tools at its disposal to measure the performance of the CAO and to discuss matters with him in-camera at any time.
"This notice of motion has been created to be no more than a spectacle and a public hanging, driven by mob mentality, fuelled by social media, misinformation, and the cherry-picking of certain pieces of information that without context have led to rulers and ultimately a trial by media," said Mayor Genung. "None of that is in any way OK. This is not the way a professional organization like the Town of Cochrane conducts its business."
He references two legal opinions sought on the motion. Both considered the motion problematic.
"The purpose of calling for a public vote, not only does not properly address performance issues, if any, and/or any performance management. Discipline or termination done in this manner may expose the town to liability."
He pushed aside efforts to defer a vote for six months by Councillor Morgan Nagel that was supported by Councillor Tara McFadden to allow for further in-camera discussions with Derricott.
"Any council member can raise concerns or issues regarding our only employee at any time and in multiple ways. So deferring this is that time. We always have that time. In fact, when this has occurred, and it has, the majority of council has indicated faith and support for current leadership, and then we moved on.
"This, as you suggest Councillor Fedeyko, is democracy at work. The majority of council determining the path forward, not the one."
Genung says his only regret was town council didn't address the burning issue months ago.
"Instead, and I speak for myself here, I've been bullied, harassed, intimidated, threatened, and sadly my family has been dragged into this mess. I am both ashamed and embarrassed at the attention this is bringing to our council, to our organization, and to our community."
He says it not only needs to stop, but council needs to speak up and support each other.
"It's troubling to hear there are pages dedicated to hatred, toxicity, rulers, misinformation, and the lack of facts targeting individuals, town staff, and our families, and in some cases anonymously."
He questioned claims that the town has a toxic workplace, pointing to a recent third-party survey indicating there have been improvements. But he doesn't question whether there are some unhappy employees in their workforce of nearly 300 people, saying it's the same in every organization.
"There are even some disgruntled employees. Some of them are now ex-employees, perhaps not happy because some of them have been held accountable by this leadership perhaps for the first time in their careers at the Town of Cochrane."
He said the easiest part of governing is being in opposition and that it's much easier to express dislikes as opposed to aspirations.
"But it's not true power. It's the semblance of power. It takes effort to articulate what we want, why it's useful, and what it will do for the people of Cochrane."
Councillor Flowers said what was proposed is wrong and personnel issues must always handled in confidence.
"We are all here on council because we were voted in. No one has the right to break the Municipal Government Act to serve their own purpose. I managed people for 25 years and I'm very disappointed that this has been brought forward in this manner."
She says social media has been a circus and has been used to try to discredit her and influence her vote. She says she will always vote for what she believes is best for Cochrane.
Councillor Wilson says he always gives consideration to Fedeyko's opinions but disagrees in this case.
"I think there's a small but vocal and determined set of individuals that have done an exceptional job of spreading very negative assertions and narrative about our CAO, particularly on social media."
He says he asked for proof and has only received hearsay, flimsy details, and mostly items taken wildly out of context.
Councillor Alex Reed said he fully supports the town's senior administration.
"I think our administration, generally speaking, is very principled, they're ethical, they're auditable, they're trustworthy, they're progressive, they're dedicated and they're hard-working, and I've seen nothing to the contrary to suggest otherwise. They're working hard to make our community a better place"
Tara McFadden said when your organization's leadership leads to a high level of public discourse it needs to be dealt with publicly, and transparently
She spoke of how the town's 2007 election was about change and restoring confidence. One of the first decisions of that newly-elected council under Mayor Truper McBride was to appoint an outside party to conduct a municipal health check.
She says the result was a structure and team she had confidence in for several terms.
She says she has heard many sides to the current matter.
"Having this many people in the gallery, the emails I've received, the conversations in the dog park, we have reached a point that this needs to be addressed. I'm actually partial to Councillor Nagel's suggestion that we defer this and come up with strategies and clear markers about what not only council is expecting but also reflects the community's need for transparency and rebuild trust because without trust we're not going to be able to get anything done."
Councillor Fedeyko says she has reserved further comment at this point.
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