Rocky View County (RVC) council wants to simplify the process surrounding council sanction and disqualification disputes.
On Sept. 22, council agreed to submit a resolution to the Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA) that would allow disputes to be settled without immediately going to the Court of Queen's Bench.
Conflicts and disputes among elected officials is a common occurrence in many municipalities, states a report they received from RVC's intergovernmental affairs. While many can be resolved through the code of conduct bylaw all Alberta municipalities must have in place, the only recourse for disputes is through the Queen's Bench. That is a time-consuming, costly, and combative legal process that can further exacerbate internal council tension.
The proposed resolution recommends the Alberta Municipal Affairs minister to adjudicate on councillor sanctions and disqualifications. The minister could review submissions by effected councillors and councils, then determine if the councillor is disqualified, or amend, enforce or remove the sanctions.
If the two parties continue to disagree by the minister's rule the option to proceed to the Court of Queen's Bench would still be available.
RVC can bare witness to just how divisive and costly it can become with its recent dispute with three of its councillors. Councillors Crystal Kissel, Kevin Hanson and Samanntha Wright were sanctioned by council on June 11, 2019 and the matter did reach the Court of Queen's Bench.
RVC council agreed on July 28 to appeal the ruling of Justice James Eamon.
All three of those impacted councillors spoke favourably of the resolution and commended staff for the proposed resolution.
"I think a lot of thought and process was put into it," said Councillor Kissel. "I don't know what will happen from here, but I just want commend staff for really thinking how this would work and how we could make this better for everyone in the province moving forward."
Whether it makes the floor of the RMA convention in November isn't known at this point. It will be considered by the RMA resolution committee in early October.