In what seems to be becoming a frequent occurrence, Red Deer city council is again dealing with a public complaint that a city councillor broke the Council Conduct Code.
“It’s the challenge of public life. Elected officials are always under public scrutiny,” said Mayor Ken Johnston of this fourth conduct complaint since 2021.
He said this one has nothing to do with past ones. “Each is unique,” added Johnston, who he feels this shows the immense breadth of what the Council Conduct Code covers — in other words, all aspects of behavior as a public official.
As with past complaints, the name of the latest alleged offender, as well as the basis of his/her offence, is not being released because of privacy provisions in the Freedom of Information Protection of Privacy Act.
But on Monday, members of city council met in a closed meeting to vote on several resolutions.
Council accepted a recommendation from an internal committee that already reviewed the complaint and found it had some merit.
Council resolved, in this case, to be its own investigator — which means taxpayers will not be spending thousands on an independent investigation, as happened in the past.
Another closed meeting has been called for July 18 when the complaint will be discussed further. Meanwhile, Johnston will collect a written response from the councillor in question, as well as supporting documentation, and will ask the respondent, as well as the complainant, to be available on July 18, in case council requires any further information.
The mayor said the Province of Alberta requires all municipal councils to have conduct codes, and Red Deer’s council has had one since 2018.
It’s coming up for review in August, and Johnston believes there could be places to tweak it. But in the end, he feels it is important to have a process for the public to hold public officials accountable. “Some of these matters are legitimate and need to be resolved…”
If council decides on July 18 that some action needs to be taken against the councillor in question, then the public will find out who and what the complaint concerns.
Earlier this year, a public conduct complaint was levelled at Coun. Kraymer Barnstable, who later apologized for inadvertently leaking some private information. He and other council members will also take some inclusivity training since Barnstable was found by an independent investigator to have breached council’s inclusiveness policy by dissing a library Drag Queen Storytime event.
Another Conduct Code complaint was made in January 2021 about former city Coun. Buck Buchanan’s seeming support for COVID rule-breaking through a social media comment.
A second conduct code complaint was also made in 2021 against someone who then sat on city council. But this accusation, and the person accused of wrong-doing, were never revealed — even though taxpayers spent $107,000 for a consultant’s investigation and report into the matter.