Harris wants to put tax issue behind him

Red Deer City Coun. Paul Harris wants to continue his work without any more drama.

Red Deer City Coun. Paul Harris wants to continue his work without any more drama.

The second-term councillor said he is ready to put the whole tax issue behind him and keep working for Red Deerians.

Harris said council acted on the best information it had and seem to be satisfied with their position.

“Council needs to get back to work and get on with the things that are important to the city and this isn’t one of them,” said Harris.

On Tuesday, council booted Harris from the audit committee for not upholding his requirements as an elected official after failing to pay $6,594.95 in tax arrears on time.

As a city councillor, Harris took an oath of office and agreed to uphold the requirements of his position under the Municipal Government Act and the Local Authorities Election Act.

The MGA states a councillor must resign if he or she is disqualified for a variety of reasons including being in debt to the municipality.

Harris said lawyers told him that the MGA can be interpreted in many ways.

“They felt the city’s position, although reasonable, wasn’t necessarily the only interpretation,” said Harris.

While council argued that the process was fair and appropriate, Harris felt there could have been another way to handle the situation.

“I would have been expected the courtesy of just being alerted that there was a potential problem brewing,” he said.

Council determined it was in the best interest of the municipality as a whole to impose sanctions rather than force disqualification through the courts.

Coun. Lynne Mulder, who voted against the resolution, said she did not agree with the process but she believes in the wisdom of council.

Harris reiterated that he did not know the magnitude of not paying his corporate taxes on time. Harris said he was in the process of clearing up his debt when he was notified of the issue. His bill was paid within an hour, he said.

Coun. Lawrence Lee said this has been a challenging issue for council.

But Lee believes the MGA and its processes were clearly delineated and followed appropriately.

Lee said council spent many hours deliberating on the various scenarios and options, looking at case law and consulting with legal counsel.

“He paid his taxes right away and we didn’t think there was any intention to do anything dishonest,” said Lee. “It would be very hard for a judge to remove an elected official.”

Lee said there’s no point in wasting the municipality’s money to take it to court.

The door is still open, however, for any member of the electorate to file an affidavit requesting a disqualification, Lee said.

Council expressed grief over the regrettable situation but also stressed its commitment to be transparent and open to the public.

“It was a priority for council to ensure this wasn’t just swept under the rug or dealt with behind closed doors,” said Lee.

Coun. Ken Johnston said councillors take an oath of office that binds them to the MGA and other appropriate legislation. Johnston said he considers the stance a reflection of the council’s commitment to accountability and transparency.

“In a difficult situation we dealt with it in a professional and appropriate way,” said Coun. Dianne Wyntjes. “When there are difficult decisions, it tests council’s mettle. But I feel comfortable with this resolution that For me, it tests my personal accountability, our transparency as council for ourselves and our community and adhere to the MGA.”

This is not the only case of an Alberta council slapping the wrists of one of its own.

Last June 2014, the Fort Macleod town council suspended Mayor Rene Gendre from boards and committees for six months and stripped him of duties for various offences including inappropriate behaviour and disclosing confidential information. The town renewed the sanctions again in February.

The Town of Gibbons imposed sanctions on Mayor Doug Horner limiting his roles and responsibilities for six months for unprofessional and offensive behaviour in July 2014.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Innisfail RCMP were dispatched to a report of a break and enter in progress on Sunday. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer woman among two arrested by Didsbury RCMP

Two people are facing drug-related charges after RCMP searched a home in… Continue reading

Satnam Singh Sandhu, 42, was sentenced to six years in prison for manslaughter on Friday in Red Deer Court of Queens Bench. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Sylvan Lake man sentenced to six years for choking his wife

Satnam Singh Sandhu pleaded guilty to manslaughter

Some workers are terrified at the prospect of returning to work at Olymel, where hundreds were infected with COVID, says a worker.
Advocate file photo
Second death linked to Olymel COVID-19 outbreak, Alberta Health confirms

A second death has been linked to the Olymel COVID-19 outbreak, Alberta… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rises during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
New vaccine brings optimism amid rising threat of variants, high case counts

Canada’s vaccine rollout received a boost Friday with the approval of a… Continue reading

An arrest by Red Deer RCMP is facing online scrutiny. No charges have been laid and the incident is still under investigation. (Screenshot of YouTube video)
Red Deer RCMP investigating violent arrest caught on video

Police say officer ‘acted within the scope of his duties’

This image released by Briarcliff Entertainment shows Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, left, with journalist Jamal Khashoggi in a scene from the documentary “The Dissident.” (Briarcliff Entertainment via AP)
US implicates Saudi crown prince in journalist’s killing

WASHINGTON — Saudi Arabia’s crown prince likely approved the killing of U.S.-based… Continue reading

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby speaks during a media briefing at the Pentagon, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
US strike, first under Biden, kills Iran-backed militiaman

BAGHDAD — A U.S. airstrike in Syria targeted facilities belonging to a… Continue reading

Conservative member of Parliament Michael Cooper holds a press conference as he is joined virtually by fellow members of Parliament, Canadian geriatricians, mental health professionals and Indigenous leaders in Ottawa on Friday, Feb. 26, 2021, regarding the Senate amendments to Bill C-7, an Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying). THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Address anti-Indigenous racism in health care before expanding MAID: advocates, MP

OTTAWA — The federal government should not expand access to medical assistance… Continue reading

Emily Keeping of Wetaskiwin, Alta., was last seen at 4:20 p.m. on Feb. 25, 2021 at the FasGas on 49 St and 50 Ave in Wetaskiwin. Supplied/ Wetaskiwin RCMP.
UPDATE: Wetaskiwin RCMP seek assistance in locating missing 11-year-old

Emily Keeping was last seen on Feb. 25, 2021 at the FasGas on 49 St and 50 Ave in Wetaskiwin.

FILE - Cameron Forte (right) and his Fraser Valley Bandits are 2-0 at the Canadian Elite Basketball League Summer Series after being the Saskatchewan Rattlers. (CEBL photo)
CEBL releases 14-game 2021 schedule, hopes to see fans attend games in person

Season will kick off with the Edmonton Stingers and the Fraser Valley Bandits

FILE - Keegan Messing performs during the Men’s Short program at the 2020 Canadian Tire National Skating Championships in Mississauga, Ont., Friday, Jan. 17, 2020. If the world figure skating championships do go ahead in a bubble in March in Sweden, there is a good chance Canada won’t be there. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Messing leads Canadian figure skating team at world championships

Messing was the only Canadian to compete on the Grand Prix circuit this season

Nurses episode, titled “Achilles Heel,” was first aired on Global in February 2020. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Global pulls ‘Nurses’ episode after scene with Orthodox Jews deemed anti-Semitic

TORONTO — Global TV says it has pulled an episode of Toronto-set… Continue reading

Lady Gaga is offering a $500,000 reward for the return of her two French bulldogs. (Photo by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Lady Gaga’s dog walker shot, French bulldogs stolen in LA

Dog walker expected to survive injuries

Most Read