Wheatland County Council passed third reading of a Code of Conduct Bylaw, 2023-18, during the Sept. 5 regular meeting of council.
As is stated in the Code of Conduct Bylaw, the purpose of the document is to establish standards for the ethical conduct of Councillors and Members relating to their roles and obligations as representatives of the county.
The document also outlines a procedure for the investigation and enforcement of those standards, should complaints be filed.
“We have been working on the Code of Conduct bylaw since April. 4, 2023. We made an amendment (since) then to add an integrity commissioner and then we brought it back and appointed Kingsgate Legal,” said Tracy Buteau, general manager of corporate and financial services for the county, who presented the document before council. “We recently reviewed the final draft at the last Committee of the Whole on Aug. 22, 2023, and as well, the final draft was reviewed by legal.”
According to the document, it is the purpose of the Integrity Commissioner to accept, assess, and investigate formal complaints, and make findings and determinations as to whether a councillor or members of County Committee and boards contravene the Code of Conduct.
The new bylaw, as was presented to council, incorporates recommended best practices, while preserving aspects from the previous Code of Conduct.
Two Code of Conduct violation complaints against County Councillors, being Rick Laursen and Glenn Koester, have been discussed in open session of council during the current sitting council’s term.
The sanctions leveled against Koester as a result of the Code of Conduct violation complaint, originally submitted by Coun. Tom Ikert, have been appealed and are currently challenged in Alberta Provincial Court.
Coun. Donna Biggar questioned, following the presentation of the bylaw, whether the Integrity Commissioner made details regarding complaints public before or after county council was able to review them.
It was clarified by council when a complaint is issued, it is given to Kingsgate Legal, then is returned to council in closed session if it is found to be a legitimate complaint. The details of the complaint will be made public and posted to the Wheatland County website following council’s consideration of the report and decision on sanctions if any are made.
County council reviewed and passed all three readings of the proposed new Code of Conduct bylaw following brief discussion and clarification, with one amendment regarding council’s disclosure of gifts accepted by a single donor.
John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times