Legal advice sought after Councillor Ernie Gendre accused of misconduct

County council is seeking legal counsel after it received a written request from ratepayers to review Councillor Gendre's interest.

County council is seeking legal counsel after it received a written request from ratepayers to review Councillor Gendre’s interest in decisions made regarding the county’s new public works facility.

At a regular council meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 9 the council reviewed the matter internally and the following motions were subsequently made by Councillor Greggory Jackson.

According to the Council for the County of Stettler No. 6, it has reason to believe that Councillor Gendre had failed to disclose the existence of a pecuniary interest in a matter before council at the Sept. 14, 2016 council meeting, in accordance with Section 172 of the Municipal Government Act (MGA), and therefore council directs administration to obtain legal advice on the available options.

The motion made also sought that administration respond in writing to a letter of concern submitted by taxpayers questioning Councillor Gendre’s participation in decisions made by council to award work on the new public works facility given he had equipment onsite working, and to inform the taxpayers the matter is being referred to the county’s lawyers for advice.

The written request to the county stated, “On a trip past the new site, it was observed that some of his equipment was working there. Question to the County Council – Was Ernie Gendre allowed to vote on the project – very much a conflict of interest – or did he, in good faith, excuse himself until after the vote? I trust you will review this matter and see if all correct procedures were applied.”

In the MGA, under Section 170 (1) it has been outlined that a councillor has a pecuniary interest in a matter if (a) the matter could monetarily affect the councillor or an employer of the councillor, or (b) the councillor knows or should know that the matter could monetarily affect the councillor’s family.

Ratepayers were concerned when Councillor Gendre’s equipment was found on site at the new public works facility, which they thought was a conflict of interest. Under Section 172(1), it states that when a councillor has a pecuniary interest in a matter before council, a council committee or any other body to which the councillor is appointed as a representative of the council, the councillor must, if present, (a) disclose the general nature of the pecuniary interest prior to any discussion of the matter, (b) abstain from voting on any question relating to the matter, (c) subject to subsection (3), abstain from any discussion of the matter, and (d) subject to subsections (2) and (3), leave the room in which the meeting is being held until discussion and voting on the matter are concluded.

Councillor Gendre voted in favour along with the rest of the council during the Sept. 14 council meeting to award a contract to Wally’s Backhoe Services Ltd. and later in the same meeting, voted against two other matters regarding the new public works facility.

“As a taxpayer I believe that someone in office cannot be voting to better themselves at the expense of others,” said Erskine resident Dale Nixon. “If something is wrong, it is wrong and should be addressed immediately and that’s what we are hoping that the county will do.”

As of now the matter has been forwarded to legal counsel on how to proceed.

To shed more light on this, Section 174 (1) (g) of the MGA states that a councillor is disqualified from council if the councillor contravenes section 172.

When Councillor Gendre was reached for comments, he said, “I want to be absolutely clear that the equipment does not belong to me, but to my son Ryan Gendre, with whom I have no financial affiliation. He is the owner of Diablo Directional Boring and has total ownership.”

According to Councillor Gendre, at the time of voting, he was aware of “some possibility that Wally’s might sub-contract Diablo” but he was not fully certain that Wally’s Backhoe would do so for sure.

Reeve for the County, Wayne Nixon said, “The Municipal Government Act is the legislative framework in which all municipalities and municipal entities across the Province of Alberta operate.”

Reeve Nixon also added that the county takes the concerns of their taxpayers very seriously as their duty to govern in accordance with the MGA.

“We want to reassure citizens of the County of Stettler that we will uphold our Council to the governance standards spelled out in Alberta’s MGA,” Reeve Nixon said.

The county is now waiting to hear back from its legal experts.

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