The City of Prince Albert was already examining their membership in the Municipalities of Saskatchewan before the controversy around Saltcoats Mayor and organization president Gordon Barnhart travelling to Hawaii.
However, Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne says those plans have only accelerated after news of Barnhart's trip surfaced on Thursday.
“It wasn't me retaliating for him doing that. This was already done before and now this thing has really added to it,” he explained.
“I'm very disappointed. I do believe he should step down from his job,” Dionne added.
“It's an unfortunate situation but I believe that some of the board has some very good members and that they should step forward and do the right thing."
Dionne said city council has already approved a motion asking the management committee for an examination and report on whether the city was getting value for its dollar from belonging to the organization. Membership fees cost the City of Prince Albert around $25,000, which Dionne said is very expensive for the City.
“It's tough with COVID and with everything else we could use that money (on) we are going to review it,” he explained.
Dionne said the decision to hold a virtual AGM was one of the reasons they're looking at leaving. He explained that the election is a major item on the agenda, along with the sector meeting for municipalities. Dionne said a virtual election will give incumbents too much of an advantage.
“I was kind of shocked that they moved forward with it," he said. "But, we will see what happens with the review, and after it goes to council. Then council will make the decision.”
In a release Friday Municipalities of Saskatchewan’s Board of Directors explained that they have recently been made aware Barnhart has travelled internationally while non-essential travel is not recommended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Board of Directors is disappointed in President Barnhart’s decision to travel abroad,” Naicam Mayor Rodger Hayward, Municipalities of Saskatchewan’s Vice-President of Towns, said. “As municipal leaders, we have a duty to lead by example and keep our communities safe by following public health measures and recommendations."
Following a meeting on Jan. 8, the board has formally requested that President Barnhart respond to membership, and the public, regarding his decision to travel.
“Saskatchewan’s hometowns have been working diligently to support their residents during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Municipalities of Saskatchewan has been working diligently to support our hometowns,” said Hayward.
“We strongly believe that every one should be doing their part to reduce the transmission of COVID-19.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization has worked to support municipalities through virtual education sessions and online meetings.
Their Convention Planning Committee decided to transition the Municipalities of Saskatchewan’s annual convention online to ensure municipal leaders can still come together in February for education, networking, and other valuable opportunities while ensuring safety.
-With files from Kelly Skjerven, Prince Albert Daily Herald
Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald