Town of Irricana ordered to make changes
Fifteen months after a petition was sent to Municipal Affairs for an investigation of Irricana, representatives from Alberta Municipal Affairs (MA) provided a report to the Town during a public meeting at the community centre, Aug. 14. The Town has been ordered to complete a list of 19 directives by October 31 and be supervised by two official ministry appointed administrators for the remainder of the year.
The ministerial order that resulted from the inspection contained a statement from Doug Griffiths, Alberta’s minister of Municipal Affairs which read, “The Town of Irricana is managed in an irregular, improvident or improper manner.”
About 75 people attended the public presentation, made by MA inspectors Sarah Ranson and Sandra Dohei.
“You need to find a way to work together,’ Dohei said.
She stressed the importance of the directives for the Town, noting they are legislation and failure to complete them could result in removal of councillors, Town staff and/or the council. Dohei said that the results of this investigation will be permanently public.
”People in Rocky View can read (the report), people in Airdrie can read it, anyone who visits your website can read it,” she said.
Jennifer Avery, who organized the petition, which spurred the investigation in 2011, said she was happy with the results.
“To have guidance is going to be excellent,” she said.
The MA inspectors said they observed council meetings and reviewed records, including minutes, bylaws, policies and financial records while investigating the Town.
The investigation revealed Irricana’s council has a number of issues at their meetings including the use of the question-and-answer period, the use of improper procedures, ineffective and inefficient council meetings, incorrect recording of minutes and voting practices, and instances of non-compliance with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
It also revealed council’s lack of policy development, and inappropriate councillor expense claims, including lack of receipts for reimbursements and improper travel claims.
The report stated Irricana has an incohesive and dysfunctional council and administration.
The report provided recommendations about governance, council meetings, a team approach, the community blog, relationships with the public, bylaws, boards and committees, remuneration and policies.
The Town was ordered to:
• Publish the MA report on its website
• Clearly state motions before voting at council meetings
• Create a procedure bylaw for public input and communications policy
• Ensure bylaws are enforced
• Send councillors to workshops
• Review Canada Revenue Agency requirements regarding remuneration
• Develop a procedural bylaw and remuneration policy
• Have CAO review remuneration claims
• Cease claiming for travel time in the form of a mileage claim
• Develop and approve inspection policies
• Submit a monthly report to Official Administrators
• Review expense claims since the last election
• Review existing policies
• Record minutes without note or comment
Councillor Dusome was also ordered to repay $825 charged to the Town for reading emails from home.
Irricana CAO Alvin Melton said council has already completed about 90 per cent of the directives including creating a communication policy and discussions about the public question-and-answer period at council meetings.
Melton said he hopes to see council’s question-and-answer period resemble the one that occurred at the MA public meeting, noting people wrote down questions on paper for inspectors to answer.
Questions asked to the inspectors after the presentation included what the consequences were of non-compliance by the Town regarding the directives, whether MA would look into the past few months in Irricana and what the policy was regarding recording in the meeting.
Mayor Lisa Constantini said council will have no problem meeting the directives on time.
“I'm very pleased with the outcome,” Constantini said. “Hopefully, this puts somewhat of an end to (the investigation).
“I knew right from when I got here that we needed to do some work,” Melton said about the work that needs to be done in Irricana.
To view a full copy of the Municipal Inspection Report, visit www.irricana.com