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Red Deer taxpayers billed $107,000 for investigation into second conduct code complaint

The report wasn’t accepted by council in the end
Red Deer City Hall. (Advocate file photo.)

Red Deer taxpayers are on the hook for the $107,000 for a second conduct code investigation that was ultimately rejected by city council.

When the report was released to city council, the full costs were not yet known. Since then, the City of Red Deer has released the final tally and it comes to $107,000, for the investigation and review, according to a city statement.

Earlier this month, city council voted on the report and the majority decided not to accept its findings. No action was taken against the person accused of unacceptable conduct.

Details of the complaint, including the identity of the council member who’s been accused of breaking the Council Code of Conduct, will remain confidential under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP).

New Red Deer Mayor Ken Johnston said he’s constrained from revealing details about the case, so can only say that comparing the cost of this Council Conduct Code investigation to the first one “is like comparing apples to oranges.”

The first conduct code review, which resulted in former councillor Buck Buchanan being censured by council over a social media post deemed inappropriate, cost $20,000.


-Second conduct complaint report not accepted by council

The second conduct code complaint against another council member, whose identity was not released, was lodged May 7. The investigation by a third-party investigator closed in early October.

Johnston said he understands people are upset about the secrecy around this complaint and the much higher cost of the investigation, which has something to do with the review’s scope, he added.

“I empathize with what people are saying and I share their frustration,” but part of the burden of being in public office means council had to balance “procedural fairness with relationships and rule clarity,” said Johnston.

While the city’s conduct code is “workable and good,” putting it to use showed how it could be strengthened and made better — and the next city manager will be tasked with honing it, said Johnston.

On Oct. 12, Coun. Lawrence Lee, a spokesperson on the matter, explained the vote to reject the report’s findings. He said some information turned up “after the fact” that put some of the report’s findings into question.

“Some additional information was presented in the end that blows it all up…It is our duty to uphold procedural fairness.”

But since the investigator did the required work, council must pay the bill, said Lee.

To ensure this same situation doesn’t reoccur, city council will be asking the city manager to prepare a confidential memorandum outlining “lessons learned” from this experience.

The memorandum, to be brought back to council in the first quarter of 2022, should make recommendations on the integration of the mayor and council’s office with that of administration.

The province requires all Alberta municipalities to have a Code of Conduct bylaw, as well as a review and investigation process if there are complaints that the code was broken.

A Code of Conduct Bylaw sets shared expectations for conduct or behaviour. The bylaw outlines how members should conduct themselves while carrying out their responsibilities and establishes a review and investigation process when a complaint is received. The City of Red Deer passed its Code of Conduct Bylaw in July 2018.

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