ontario news watch

‘Profoundly disappointed’: Medicine Hat council chastises mayor over conduct breach

MEDICINE HAT, Alta. — The mayor of Medicine Hat, Alta., has had her powers – and pay – greatly diminished after city council found she breached the code of conduct by failing to treat the city manager with “courtesy, dignity and respect.” 

At a special meeting Thursday, Medicine Hat city council unanimously censured Mayor Linnsie Clark, stripped her of many of her powers and halved her salary as a result of a tense exchange with city manager Ann Mitchell in August. 

“We are all profoundly disappointed in your actions. The city has a duty to provide a safe and respectful workplace for its employees, including our city manager,” said acting Mayor Andy McGrogan as he read the letter of reprimand into the record. 

“Council expects you will take the opportunity to reflect on these findings and having done so you will take the time to sincerely apologize to the city manager for your actions.” 

Council imposed several sanctions, including a 50-per-cent pay cut, the publication of a letter of reprimand and request for apology, and the suspension of Clark’s presiding duties under the Municipal Government Act. 

Clark will also no longer be the official spokesperson for council.

In addition she may no longer attend meetings of the administration committee, is prohibited from entering the administration area of city hall, and outside of council meetings may not have any direct contact with city staff other than the city manager.

The interactions with the city manager are only allowed via email where all members of council are copied, and any in-person meetings must be done with another council member present.

Clark, who did not attend the council meeting, expressed her disappointment in a post on Facebook. 

“I ran on a platform of change for the citizens of Medicine Hat who were concerned about administrative overreach and poor governance at city hall. I stand by those principles,” Clark wrote. 

“I fundamentally disagree with the decision of council. I find council’s sanction shocking and absolutely disproportionate. I am reviewing my legal options and expect to be in a position to provide a further public response after I have done so.” 

The lengthy exchange occurred Aug. 21, 2023, when Clark was questioning Mitchell about an extensive reorganization of city hall and whether it was done without following proper procedures. 

It prompted Coun. Shila Sharps to raise a point of order and demand that Clark stop her questions. 

“I think this is starting to be an inquisition versus council asking administration questions,” Sharps said. 

“I am not happy this is happening the way it is.” 

Clark replied it was disappointing no one else cared about the exercise of a council power. 

“I feel my role wasn’t respected as an elected official.” 

An official with Alberta Municipal Affairs said the department is aware of the sanctions issued against Clark and that the Municipal Government Act requires every municipality to establish a code of conduct bylaw. 

“The Code of Conduct for Elected Officials Regulation sets out requirements for the complaint system within a code of conduct bylaw, as well as sanctions which may be imposed for violations of a code of conduct bylaw,” said the statement. 

“The Municipal Government Act does not provide the minister of Municipal Affairs with any role in the adjudication of sanctions imposed by a council under a code of conduct bylaw.” 

Alberta Municipalities said it wouldn’t be commenting on the issue, calling it an internal matter for council in Medicine Hat. 

Medicine Hat has a population of just over 63,000 and is 300 kilometres southeast of Calgary. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 22, 2024. 

The Canadian Press