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Fort Macleod town council rejects petition; plans community meeting

Fort Macleod council last week rejected a petition calling for the removal of chief administrative officer David Connauton.
Council agreed, however, to a request from the petition organizer to hold a community meeting in the near future.
Petition organizer Karen Friesen appeared as a delegation at the Nov. 24 council meeting at the Fort Macleod RCMP Centennial Library.
“People in the community have had a lot of concerns,” Friesen told council. “That’s why the petition was started.”
The petition questioned spending and hiring decisions that it blamed on Connauton.
Friesen said since the petition contained signatures of at least 10 per cent of Fort Macleod’s population she was compelled to present it to council.
However, Friesen said Gordon Harris, a consultant assisting the Town of Fort Macleod with an organizational review, asked her to back away from the petition in return for council holding a community meeting.
“I am willing to follow his advice as long as council does as well,” Friesen said.
Coun. Keith Trowbridge said council planned to have a public meeting, regardless of the petition.
Friesen said a community meeting in which people are allowed to ask questions and make comments would ease tension and alleviate frustration.
“I really think community engagement is important,” Friesen said.
Trowbridge agreed, and noted council planned to have a community meeting when it was prepared.
“We had a few things on our plate,” Coun. Mike Collar said.
Mayor Rene Gendre argued that council should hold such a meeting whenever it is requested by residents.
“When our employers ask us, we should be ready to comply whether we’re ready or not,” Gendre said.
Friesen agreed with Gendre.
“This petition was obviously a cry for help from frustrated citizens,” Friesen wrote in a letter to council. “So I am asking to please work with you. I am asking you to please listen to us, to communicate with us.”
Deputy Mayor Trish Hoskin said council will be ready to have a community meeting early in 2015.
“We’re just going to get our ducks in a row,” Hoskin said.
Gendre asked Friesen what she was trying to achieve by starting the petition to have David Connauton removed as CAO.
“What came from this petition is community engagement,” Friesen said.
Friesen said the petition was about financial accountability, council engagement with the community and transparency.
“We’ve got a lot to work on,” Friesen said.
Coun. Gord Wolstenholme said he agreed with Friesen on those points, but took issue with petition calling for the dismissal of the CAO.
“I don’t think you should ask for someone to be fired,” Wolstenholme said.
Gendre asked Friesen when should we would like to see council hold a community meeting.
“Realistically, by the end of January would be appropriate,” Friesen said.
Council discussed the issue later in the meeting.
Coun. Brent Feyter said he spoke to a number of people who signed the petition not because they wanted the CAO removed.
Feyter said the majority of people he spoke to just wanted the chance to give council feedback on some of the decisions it made.
Coun. Mike Collar said the petition did not meet the requirements as listed in the Municipal Government Act.
Feyter agreed, noting some people who signed the petition are not residents of the Town of Fort Macleod, but said the message of a desire for community engagement is clear.
“I think what we do need to do is focus on a public forum early in the new year,” Feyter said.
Connauton said council has to decide whether it would reject or accept the petition.
Gendre argued the petition was never intended to be statutory, that it was meant for information.
“I think we should acknowledge it and accept it as information from the electorate,” Gendre said.
Gendre urged council not to dwell on the fact the petition was signed by people who do not live in town, noting many are area residents.
“It’s still their town,” Gendre said.
Wolstenholme wondered what information came from the petition.
Connauton said the petition was based on incorrect information, so the value could be questioned.
Gendre said the information is that people want more engagement with council.
“They want to talk to their employees,” Gendre said.
Feyter argued that people signed a petition that wanted council to fire the CAO.
Gendre once again said people who signed the petition simply wanted the chance to have a discussion with council.
“That’s not what the petition said,” Wolstenholme countered.
Feyter said if people wanted engagement with council they should have said that directly.
“Do we as individuals always ask the right questions?” Gendre replied.
Feyter made a motion that council reject the petition and advise administration to make recommendations on when a public meeting can be held.
Gendre argued council should accept the petition as information.
“If we reject it, we‘re rejecting a request from the public, a cry for help,” Gendre said.
Council voted 6-1 in favour of Feyter’s motion, with Gendre opposed.

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1 Comments For This Post

  1. Davey Clinton Says:

    Gendre and Friesen still don’t seem to understand that there’s a difference in seeking understanding and seeking to have a husband and father and community member lose his job. If the petition had been worded in a way that was respecting people’s livelihood and didn’t contain misleading information perhaps it would have garnered more than a handful of residents’ and non-residents’ support. It was born out of ignorance and treated thusly.