Resident speaks out against CAO
An Irricana resident is threatening legal action against the Town accusing an administrator of intimidation after he allegedly called her employer about emails she was sending to Town staff.
Valerie Squires said the issue started after she emailed Irricana CAO Alvin Melton asking for clarification on the June 18 CAO report. Squires raised her concern about the issue during a question and answer period at the July 16 Irricana Town council meeting.
“I was shocked,” said Valerie Squires, who has lived in Irricana for six years. “I am sure the whole point was to impede my career and make me stop (asking questions). It’s just intimidation at its finest.”
Squires said she emailed Melton on June 19 following the June 18 council meeting to inquire about a lump sum listed in the June 18 CAO report under programs and services cut because of Irricana budgetary cutbacks. Park maintenance included grass cutting, flowers, the splash park and skating rink for a total of $15,242.33 budget cuts.
Squires said she was asking Melton for clarification on the money allotted for each item under the park maintenance total in his report. She was told audited financials would be available at the end of the year.
Squires said emails were exchanged between herself and Melton but he did not answer her questions.
She was approached by her boss regarding the emails sent to Melton from her work address.
“I was quite upset. (Melton) has no justification. It’s none of his business,” she said. “It impedes the trust there is between an employer and an employee.”
She said because she has been with her company for five years, her concerns with the Town have not affected her employment.
Melton defended his actions by saying, “I contacted Valerie’s employer about email policies. It’s a courtesy among professionals.”
Melton said he has received more than 50 emails from Squires in the last six months.
“I was wondering if (the company) had a problem with the Town because it was coming from their letterhead (email address),” Melton said. “I was wondering if they had a policy on appropriate email use.”
During the July 16 meeting, Deputy Mayor Andrew Carr asked Melton why he was “bullying residents.”
“I am absolutely disgusted and appalled,” Carr said, in an interview after the meeting.
“There is no reason why he should be calling her place of employment. That’s just bullying – it is cut and dry.”
Carr said he wants to see disciplinary action taken against Melton, adding nothing has been done so far. He said he wants the incident noted on Melton’s employment record and the CAO to take an anti-bullying seminar.
“We have the anti-bullying campaigns going on... but apparently (Melton) missed that,” he said. “Politicians, we are not always trusted, and I think that when we bully our residents, what little trust we had degrades.”
Though the incident had few ramifications for Squires, she said she is concerned it will send the wrong message to residents about questioning the Town.
“By (Melton) doing that to me, it makes them (people with questions) hesitant, like anybody who is getting abused,” said Squires.
Squires said her legal council believes she has a case.
“Of course it’s costly and I can’t afford that,” she said, noting her boss said he was willing to testify about what happened.
Melton said he isn’t worried about legal action relating to the matter.
When asked what she would like to see done, Squires said “at the very least, this should go on his permanent employment record.”
“To me, he is being a detriment to the image of what we are trying to get done as a town,” she said. “Intimidation to me, there is no place for that in today’s society. We all have rights. We all deserve respect.”