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Alberta fires Chestermere councillors and managers, citing failure to fix dysfunction

Ric McIver speaks in Edmonton on Aug. 21, 2014. The Alberta government has fired more than half the city councillors of a Calgary-area municipality, stating they failed to act on demands they fix their dysfunctional government. Municipal Affairs Minister McIver announced he was immediately dismissing Mayor Jeff Colvin and three of the remaining six councillors for the City of Chestermere, located just east of Calgary. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson

EDMONTON — The Alberta government has fired the mayor and half the councillors of a Calgary-area municipality, saying they failed to act on demands to fix their dysfunctional government.

Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver announced he had dismissed Mayor Jeff Colvin and three of the remaining six councillors for the City of Chestermere.

Three other top Chestermere administration officials were also dismissed, and the government has appointed an administrator to run Chestermere until byelections can be held some time next year.

McIver said he had no choice because the council would not rectify multiple organizational problems cited in an earlier third-party report.

“Enough is enough,” McIver told reporters at the legislature Monday.

“Every municipality in Alberta must comply with their legal obligations, and those who choose not to will be held accountable.”

He added, “What’s most unfortunate to me is that Alberta’s government has gone out of its way over many months to give the city as much guidance and opportunity as we possibly could to help them comply with their legal requirements, but they have failed to do so.”

McIver announced that earlier Monday he dismissed – effective immediately – Colvin along with councillors Mel Foat, Stephen Hanley and Blaine Funk.

Colvin could not be immediately reached for comment.

McIver said the remaining three councillors – Shannon Dean, Sandy Johal-Watt and Ritesh Narayan – were not fired because they have worked to try to hold council to account and to move it in a more positive direction.

With the firings, Chestermere council does not have enough elected leaders to legally meet, meaning the three remaining councillors will not govern until byelections can be held next year to fill the vacant seats.

In the meantime, McIver said the city will be run by an administrator, Douglas Lagore, who was appointed by the province more than a year ago to supervise and sign off on council’s actions. 

An interim chief administrative officer has also been appointed.

McIver said there will also be a third-party review of Chestermere’s finances.

Chestermere is a city of about 22,000 located on the eastern edge of Calgary.

Monday’s firings follow almost two years of complaints, concerns and judicial wrangling that began shortly after the new council was elected in October 2021.

Based on complaints – including from councillors Dean, Johal-Watt and Narayan – the province commissioned George Cuff in May 2022 to conduct a third-party inspection of the Chestermere council.

Cuff’s report, completed in the fall of 2022, cited multiple problems, including blurred lines of authority between politicians and administrators, infighting, empire building, lack of information sharing, staff turnover and a failure to consistently adhere to rules and procedures.

Colvin and others on council have disputed Cuff’s findings and have sought a judicial review of the report.

In March, the province directed the Chestermere council to implement 12 changes to rectify problems cited in the Cuff report.

McIver said the firings are a result of the councillors not following Lagore’s direction and failing to implement the recommendations.

“The city of Chestermere has continued to be managed in an irregular, improper and improvident manner,” said McIver.

McIver also released Monday 46 pages of findings underpinning his decision.

Those findings include concerns council failed to act through resolution or bylaws, purchasing trolley buses based on an online straw vote. There were questions around refunded property taxes, credit card expenses and a failure to provide financial documents. 

McIver signalled in October he was prepared to fire the council if remedial action wasn't taken.

That prompted a bloc of council to ask a Court of King’s Bench judge last week to put any dismissal on hold pending the completion of the judicial review into the Cuff report. The injunction was denied.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 4, 2023.

Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press

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