Stettler investigation not enough, says Saskiew
Wildrose Party justice critic Shayne Saskiw believes a County of Stettler internal investigation of partisan fundraising doesn’t go far enough.
Saskiw still wants to see Elections Alberta get involved with its own probe.
The Wildrose Party alleged last month that a county employee had posted election signs while on shift for the county for then-Progressive Conservative MLA Jack Hayden several years ago. Another employee allegedly promoted Hayden’s Facebook page while at work.
Hayden lost the 2010 election to Wildrose candidate Rick Strankman.
A Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy request was made for any records of municipal resources being used for partisan purposes.
A county investigation found no truth to the claims involving employees doing work for the Tories. But a review going back almost a decade found county politicians and staffers had improperly been reimbursed for attending Tory party events to the tune of $6,540. All of the payments dated prior to 2010.
Taxpayer dollars, whether municipal, provincial or federal, should not be going to partisan purposes, said Saskiw.
“It’s wrong and the money should be immediately repaid. We’ll leave it to Elections Alberta to determine what the appropriate penalty should be in this case.”
County Reeve Wayne Nixon said on Monday that attending the meetings had been seen previously as a routine cost of business and a useful way to meet with government leaders. The practice was stopped by the current council, which was elected in 2010.
As for allegations that an employee was asked to put out election signs on municipal time and another worker promoted Hayden’s re-election Facebook page while at work, a county investigation found no evidence of either incident.
Nixon said the Wildrose has been asked, but has yet to produce, the statements backing up those claims.
Nixon was critical of the party’s tactics, calling it a “witch hunt,” adding the party should focus on more important issues for constituents.
Saskiw said the results show this was no witch hunt.
“I think most taxpayers and most Albertans would be frankly shocked at that type of statement to say it was a witch hunt when in fact illegal donations have been found,” he said.
Saskiw said he has not been contacted by the reeve for more information. However, any information backing up the allegations will be provided to Elections Alberta if it investigates. Under the law, Elections Alberta will not disclose whether it is investigating unless there has been a finding of wrongdoing.
A number of Alberta municipalities found themselves on the wrong side of election laws earlier this year.
In February, the chief electoral officer posted the results of an investigation that found 45 cases of illegal contributions, all involving either the Tory party or one of its constituency associations. Total donations topped $20,000.