Update on the ongoing sanctions saga
The fate of the sanctions appeal is still unclear. At Council’s February 8th meeting, Mayor Kochan and Councillors Samra, Boehlke, and Schule held an in camera session to discuss the second counteroffer provided by Councillors Hanson, Kissel, and Wright. The outcome demonstrates graphically that Boehlke and Schule appear to be exerting veto power over the resolution of the vindictive actions they participated in as part of the previous council’s majority.
After a lengthy closed session, Samra made a motion directing Administration to accept the new offer from Hanson, Kissel and Wright. He stated that “based on the information we’ve been provided, I believe this motion provides direction that’s in the best interests of the County. We have an opportunity to end this, and I ask for your support”. It’s hard not to agree with him since five of the seven councillors clearly saw this offer as an acceptable and reasonable solution. Despite that, Samra’s motion was defeated in a 2 – 2 vote with support from Kochan and opposition from Boehlke and Schule (remember Hanson, Kissel, and Wright can’t vote on the matter because of the pecuniary interest rules).
Schule then made a motion directing Administration to withdraw the appeal subject to the direction and conditions laid out on Dec. 7th. His motion passed in a 3 – 1 vote, with Kochan switching sides. In our opinion, it would have been far more productive to have Schule’s motion fail in another tie vote and then introduce a third motion that signalled a willingness to move things towards a resolution.
Bargaining in good faith requires both sides to concede some ground. It’s apparent that Hanson, Kissel and Wright made concessions since Kochan and Samra rejected their first counteroffer but accepted their second. Boehlke and Schule, on the other hand, have done nothing to indicate they are willing to concede any ground or act in a collegial manner to put things behind them. After all, defaulting back to their offer originally made two months ago is not what anyone would describe as good faith bargaining.
With a clear majority on the new council willing to settle the matter, it is frustrating that arcane procedural rules are permitting Boehlke and Schule to continue to impose their political vendetta against their three re-elected colleagues. As Samra pointed out, the four councillors voting on the matter received information advising them to accept the second offer as that was in the County’s best interest and, therefore, the right thing to do – so, why aren’t Boehlke and Schule willing to accept that advice?
The County’s legal costs for the appeal are not covered by insurance. It is, therefore, hard not to conclude that the insurance company believes there is no merit in the appeal. As we have said before, it is completely unclear what upside there might be from the County’s perspective even if it were to “win” the appeal.
The county lost in court back in July 2020 and the previous council’s majority appealed the following month. The sanctions would have all expired a couple of months after they were thrown out by the court. Hoggan, who encouraged the sanctions while he was CAO, jumped ship before the election. This could have been resolved as soon as the election was over. That makes it even more disgusting that Boehlke and Schule are now dragging things out by digging in their heels when “winning” would have no impact other than to sour relationships in the new council and to cost ratepayers even more money.
For Hanson, Kissel, and Wright getting their long-overdue back pay is important. However, that’s not all that is at stake. They must personally finance their legal costs for the appeal while Boehlke and Schule’s antics force the County to continue to use our tax dollars. As the judge who exonerated Wright in her disqualification case asked – would they be so brazen if it was their own money they were spending? Every time this goes back and forth, more legal costs are racked up by both sides. The unfortunate thing is that, if they have any hope of being treated fairly, Hanson, Kissel, and Wright have no option other than to pay since only the County can withdraw the appeal.
It is interesting to speculate on how things might have unfolded if Boehlke and Schule had not been re-elected. The two new councillors (Kochan and Samra) came to this issue with fresh minds. Having looked at the information and listened to professional advice, it is evident they have concluded that the appeal should be settled. It, therefore, seems reasonable to assume that two additional new faces would have done the same – especially, since they would have no egos to protect or spilled milk to cover up.
It is virtually impossible to see how pushing this issue any further can be in the best interests of the county and its ratepayers. Last we checked, all councillors took an oath of office to act in the best interests of the county as a whole. We challenge Boehlke and Schule to explain how their actions pass that test.
We sincerely hope that this mess gets resolved quickly and fairly. Rocky View residents elected this council to move forward away from the biases and bickering of the previous council. It’s time they were listened to.