We reported in earlier updates about the sanctions that the judge would provide his decision by early March. However, as reported in CountyNews Online, that decision has been delayed.
During the January 22nd hearing, Hanson, Kissel and Wright’s lawyers obtained permission from the judge to submit the minutes from the January 14th Council meeting at which Councillor Gautreau was sanctioned for his participation in sharing the “confidential” legal opinion with the lawyer hired by the four councillors. (The minutes were not yet available on the court date.) The judge asked both sets of lawyers to provide written submissions on these minutes as promptly as possible, so he could issue his ruling by the beginning of March.
As explained in the County News Online article, the County's lawyer subsequently asked the judge for permission to make additional oral submissions. The judge granted this request and oral submissions will be heard on March 31st. After he evaluates those submissions, he will issue his decision. We understand that this is a perfectly legitimate part of the judicial process. However, we can’t help but wonder when this whole mess is going to end. Interestingly, we could not find any information about the delay on the County website.
As a refresher, for sharing the “confidential” letter with their lawyer, Hanson, Kissel and Wright were removed from all boards and committees; lost 30% of their pay; and were asked to make a public apology. In contrast, Councillor Gautreau was only asked to make a public apology. He remains on all boards and committees and sits as chair or vice-chair of some of them. He was even appointed chair of the new Municipal Planning Commission on the same day as he was sanctioned.
As was noted in a recent editorial in Rocky View Weekly, the impacts of the sanctions are wreaking havoc with Council committees and the Council majority keeps making changes to these committees to address their shortcomings. For example, the Council majority had to reduce the quorum requirement for the new Municipal Planning Commission (MPC) to three councillors. Because the sanctions exclude Councillors Hanson, Kissel and Wright from MPC, the remaining councillors were finding it difficult to meet the 5-member quorum that is standard for all council committees.
Council also eliminated the Governance and Priorities Committee (GPC) at its Feb. 25th meeting, deciding that presentations from members of the public that would have been at GPC could be heard as part of regularly scheduled Council meetings. At its March 10th meeting, Council then discussed the merits of adding a third monthly council meeting and directed staff to bring back options for Council to consider how an additional meeting might be introduced.
In the meantime, GPC presentations will be held during the regular twice-monthly council meetings, at unspecified times. From our perspective, this seems like putting the cart before the horse. Wouldn’t it have been more logical to make the decision on whether a third meeting would be added each month before eliminating GPC? Or to have considered, as Councillor Kissel suggested, holding GPC meetings on the same days as the newly created Municipal Planning Commission?
We question the County’s decision to continue using taxpayer dollars in its efforts to further defend the council majority’s decision to impose these sanctions. We don’t blame the County’s lawyer, she is just doing her job. That said, we don’t understand why the council majority has not directed her to resolve things at this point. It seems ironic that at the hearing the County’s lawyer argued that it was the three sanctioned councillors who were unwilling to put things behind them and move on, yet now the County appears unwilling to just let the evidence presented at the hearing stand on its own merits.
As a reminder, while it is our tax dollars that are paying the County’s lawyers, Councillors Hanson, Kissel and Wright continue to pay their own mounting legal bills. If you haven’t already done so, please consider making a donation towards their legal costs through the Fundrazr site set up by the Rocky View Taxpayers Association.