Councillor seeks legal advice

Wheatland County Coun. Rick Laursen recently hosted an open house to address questions and concerns from county residents.

Shortly prior to the organization of the open house, during the Nov. 1 regular council meeting, a motion was made to have an in-camera item brought forward into the public record.

The item was regarding the FOIP act, section 17 – Disclosure Harmful to Personal Privacy, Councillor Code of Conduct.

The motion was to bring the in-camera item into the public record, should it be in regards to councillors Laursen or Glenn Koester.

Laursen is currently seeking legal advice regarding an investigation into him regarding his conduct, to which under county bylaw he was unable to speak about further.

“I wanted this to be done in public because I have made it pretty clear that I’m acting in the best interests of the ratepayers, and nothing that I’ve done would be considered inappropriate,” he said. “The rest of council voted, and it wasn’t unanimous. I believe it was recorded vote. They decided to keep it in what’s called an in-camera session.”

Councillors Laursen, Koester and Shannon Laprise voted in favour of bringing the item into the public record and were defeated 4-3.

Koester was in a similar position in the spring, as during the March 22 regular council meeting, an issue was raised against him which was not allowed to be moved to the public record.

“You can’t defend yourself against this, and I feel sorry for Rick,” said Coun. Tom Ikert. “There was a motion to have an investigator look at the charges, and that’s all I can say.”

During an organizational meeting of council prior to the Nov. 1 regular meeting, according to Ikert, included in the package was the County’s code of conduct bylaw which was signed off on that all code of conduct complaints would be taken in-camera.

Laursen, after the motion was defeated, excused himself from the in-camera session regarding the item in order to seek further legal advice.

Koester, at the time of the regular council meeting, noted more than one third of council meeting time has been in-camera, based on a report from early in the fall.

He added he believed it appropriate for a councilor being accused to want the discussion on the public record, and finds it difficult for so many proceedings to be confidential to the public.

John Watson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times