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Fort Macleod town council has few answers on CAO’s dismissal

People looking for insight Monday into Fort Macleod council’s decision to dismiss chief administrative officer David Connauton got little satisfaction.
Council under questioning during the public portion of Monday’s meeting at the RCMP Centennial Library offered few answers.
“I was very shocked,” Fort Macleod resident Terry Daniel said of Connauton’s dismissal on May 13. “I want to know why.”
Daniel said he attended the regular council meeting May 11, at which Connauton was in his role as CAO, and there was no indication of any pending change.
Deputy Mayor Brent Feyter did not offer much by way of explanation.
“Council has not given any reasons, officially,” Feyter said.
Daniel found that response less than satisfactory.
“So how did this come about?” Daniel asked. “There has got to be a reason there somewhere.”
Feyter reiterated his position that council had nothing to say on the matter.
“As a citizen of this town, it’s kind of strange . . . somebody is dismissed and nobody has any reason for it,” Daniel said.
“It’s pretty sad.”
Daniel asked if council had a special meeting to discuss Connauton’s status before he was dismissed.
Daniel indicated he had heard there was a meeting of councillors at the UFA business operated by Coun. Keith Trowbridge.
“Not that I’m aware of,” Trowbridge replied.
Council was asked if it felt the citizens do not have the right to some answers regarding the CAO’s dismissal. There was no response.
“This is pretty much a mystery,” Daniel said.
Feyter offered that the decision of council to dismiss Connauton was not unanimous.
Daniel asked if there was documentation and whether procedure had been followed by council before the decision was made.
“Otherwise you’re looking at a law suit,” Daniel said.
Feyter replied that there was no documentation.
Daniel asked whether council had done a written performance evaluation, as required by the Municipal Government Act. Feyter said it had not been done.
“This is like a deep, dark secret,” Daniel said, asking whether the public was notified of the special meeting council held at 8:30 a.m., prior to voting to dismiss Connauton.
Mayor Rene Gendre, who called the special meeting, said council followed the Town of Fort Macleod’s longstanding practice of posting the notice in the lobby of the Town Office.
Daniel said posting a notice in the Town Office will not make the public aware of special meetings.
“This is pretty sad,” Daniel said. “I’m very disappointed.”
Sharan Randle, a Fort Macleod resident and former councillor, said she wanted the facts.
Feyter responded by reading the brief minutes of the May 13 special meeting.
The meeting was held at Fort Macleod Health Centre with Gendre, Feyter and councillors Mike Collar, Michael Dyck, Keith Trowbridge and Gord Wolstenholme present. Coun. Trish Hoskin was absent.
The meeting was called to order at 8:45 and was promptly closed to the public. When council came out of closed session at 10:45 a.m., Gendre’s motion to indemnify council was passed.
Trowbridge then made a motion to dismiss Connauton immediately with full compensation as per his contract, or with the option to resign.
Werner Dressler, a resident of Fort Macleod and former community peace officer, said as a town employee Connauton was entitled to 72 hours notice, which he did not receive.
Dressler said if Connauton sues successfully for wrongful dismissal it will be the taxpayers who pay.
Dressler noted the town has already spent more than $100,000 on the judicial review initiated by Gendre over the sanctions imposed on him by council.
“When is it going to stop?” Dressler asked.
Dressler said the constant turmoil at Town Office will serve to deter prospective residents and business owners from choosing Fort Macleod.
“We need to focus on our community and stop this nonsense,” Dressler said.
Dressler said council’s reasons for dismissing Connauton should be made public.
“You should be able to give us a straight answer,” Dressler said.