Disregarding the MGA should be taken seriously – Reeve
After several meetings and deliberations over the past few weeks, the County of Stettler council censured councillor Ernie Gendre in a regular county meeting this past Wednesday, Dec. 14.
This, after a motion made by councillor Dave Grover, supporting the filing of an application for the disqualification of councillor Ernie Gendre with the Court of Queen’s Bench was defeated.
Councillor Grover’s motion was in response to an alleged pecuniary interest matter involving councillor Gendre which was brought before council in November after a letter from concerned ratepayers was received on Oct. 28, 2016.
The county council sought legal advice and after considering and weighing out all sides, determined that “councillor Ernie Gendre had been contacted by contractors, including Wally’s Backhoe, requesting Gendre Construction Inc. to provide bid pricing as a subcontractor on the county’s water service line installation projects.”
The council also determined that “councillor Ernie Gendre declined to provide bid pricing on behalf of Gendre Construction Inc., but instead referred contractors to contact his son, Ryan Gendre, the owner of Diablo Directional Boring Ltd.”
In addition, the council outlined that “Councillor Ernie Gendre had loaned the equipment that concerned ratepayers had observed on the job site to his son’s company, Diablo Directional Boring Ltd.” and “Diablo Directional Boring Ltd. ultimately subcontracted work to Wally’s Backhoe on the above noted county water service line installation contracts.”
In the light of the above, the council made the following motion, which stated that the council found councillor Gendre’s conduct falling short of the standard prescribed by the Municipal Government Act (MGA) and expected of a member of council for the County of Stettler No. 6.
The motion made was a censure motion, which is a formal and public account of councillor Gendre’s actions, and a message from council that moving forward they would expect councillor Gendre would comply with all of his obligations as a councillor as prescribed by the law outlined in the MGA, which empowers and guides municipal government in the Province of Alberta.
Besides, the council found that councillor Gendre knew or should have known that the matter of awarding the county water service line installation contracts could monetarily affect his family by virtue of his son’s ownership of Diablo Directional Boring Ltd. and the prospect that Diablo Directional Boring Ltd. could be a sub-contractor on one or more of these projects; that he was careless, irresponsible and negligent in failing to disclose his pecuniary interest and follow the pecuniary interest rules prescribed in the MGA.
The council acknowledged that councillor Gendre denied he had a pecuniary interest in this matter and had chosen not to provide a public apology or express any remorse to council for his actions.
In addition, the council noted that Section 175(2) of the MGA granted both a council and an elector the discretion, but did not impose any obligation, to bring a court application to enforce a disqualification.
The council after carefully weighing the costs and impacts of bringing legal proceedings against councillor Gendre and being mindful that a general municipal election will be held on Oct. 16, 2017, determined it was in the public interest to disclose this information publicly but not pursue enforcement of disqualification through court proceedings in the circumstances.
The council thereby censured councillor Gendre for contravening section 172 of the Municipal Government Act by failing to disclose his pecuniary interest in the water service line installation contracts, remaining in council chambers and participating in the discussion and voting on motions 279.09.14.16, 280.09.14.16 and 293.09.14.16 at the Sept, 14, 2016 council meeting.
The council expects that councillor Gendre would comply with all of his statutory obligations as a member of council for the County of Stettler No. 6 moving forward.
Speaking to this, Reeve Wayne Nixon said that the County of Stettler council takes the disregarding of the MGA very seriously and clarified, “No one is alleging an elaborate conspiracy or collusion between Wally’s, Gendre Construction, Diablo and Councillor Ernie Gendre personally.
“The Municipal Government Act is concerned with whether a matter ‘could’ monetarily affect a councillor or their family, as per section 170 (1) b. Ernie very simply should have known to excuse himself from this matter.”
According to Reeve Nixon, the fact that councillor Gendre’s son’s company in fact did monetarily benefit only goes to prove the point, but even if Diablo hadn’t been selected as the subcontractor, the reasonable possibility was there nonetheless.
“Our expectations have been and will continue to be, that all of our councillors uphold their oath in the highest regard, and at the minimum to the standards prescribed to us under the MGA in the Province of Alberta,” Reeve Nixon added.
Councillor Ernie Gendre provides his rebuttalEven though councillor Gendre had admitted earlier in an interview that at the time of voting, he was aware of “some possibility that Wally’s might subcontract Diablo” but he was not fully certain that Wally’s Backhoe would do so for sure, councillor Gendre, when asked on Friday, Dec. 16 to provide his comments on the incident said, “To be transparent to the public of the County of Stettler and our extended communities, I provide the following rebuttal against the four specific items that three of my council colleagues ‘formulated’ against me, and accused me of after they had ‘carefully considered’ all issues.”
Councillor Gendre said that he never was contacted by any contractor, including Wally’s Backhoe to provide a bid price for the project that Wally’s Backhoe contracted his son’s company, Diablo Directional Drilling Ltd. to complete.
“For the council to provide a salacious note such as was itemized as (a) in the media release, which generalized the situation to include ‘all water service line installation projects,’ is an inclusionary tactic that is used by bullies to generalize a situation for their own benefit while trapping others.”
Councillor Gendre stated that his concern with this type of pressure from just a few is that it could result in silencing anyone that they chose to.
“This could result in using a contractor to call me for a bid, whether it was real or otherwise, which would result in my being held in violation of the pecuniary section of the MGA, even if I didn’t say anything and hung up,” councillor Gendre explained. “Since I never was contacted by anyone to provide a bid as I’ve been accused and I certainly never contacted any contractors to engage Diablo Directional Boring Ltd. in particular for this job, I will allow representatives of Wally’s Backhoe to answer any questions you may have in this regard.”
Councillor Gendre also added that Diablo Directional Boring Ltd. for one time only, did not have a vehicle to move a specialized piece of equipment off-site.
“So my son, Ryan Gendre borrowed a vehicle without any loan arrangement or financial benefit to me,” councillor Gendre said. “As many of you know, I have and would help anyone stuck in a similar situation. For those that don’t realize how kindness works, they should try it.”
Councillor Gendre also said that the council’s wording was done by “bullies, who had twisted the facts to make it appear in their favour.”
He added, “By wording this item in this manner, they make it appear that Diablo Directional Boring Ltd. was in charge of who got the job, but just to clarify, one only has to contact Wally’s Backhoe to obtain an answer that they requested a bid from Diablo Directional Boring Ltd. and that Diablo’s bid was thereafter accepted.”