The provincial government confirmed to the East Central Alberta (ECA) Review this week that the Minister of Municipal Affairs will make a decision on how the Village fo Morrin will be governed after two of the three elected councillors recently quit.
A few weeks ago both Mayor Howard Helton and Melissa Wilton tendered their resignations; Wilton in fact resigned a few times before coming to a final decision.
At the organizational meeting in October, remaining Coun. M’Liss Edwards was elected mayor.
Since there’s no quorum for the village council, it was unclear to the community and media how or if regular council meetings would proceed.
The ECA Review newspaper contacted the Ministry of Municipal Affairs Nov. 23 to find out how and if regular council meetings would proceed and how taxpayers could get information about their village government.
Justin Marshall, press secretary for the Minister of Municipal Affairs, responded via email by Nov. 30.
“Right now, two of the three Village of Morrin councillors have resigned leaving council with no quorum and therefore, the village is unable to conduct business or hold regular council meetings,” stated Marshall in the email.
“A decision will be made in the coming weeks and Minister (Tracy) Allard is quickly reviewing the situation as local government is important to our democracy.
“When the number of councillors is less than a quorum due to resignations, the Minister of Municipal Affairs may appoint an official administrator who has the powers of the council or ordering that the remaining councillors constitute a quorum.
“The MGA clearly states that the meetings have to be public, press has to be allowed in the council chambers and they must to be able to record. The only time this is different is when council goes into camera.”
Morrin council had a regularly scheduled meeting Nov. 18, but no information was posted on how or if the meeting would be held.
The ECA Review sent a text message to Village of Morrin Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Annette Plachner Nov. 18 which went unanswered, this was followed by an email to Mayor Edwards the same day.
Edwards responded at about 7:30 p.m. that night, half an hour after the meeting was supposed to have started. "There was no council meeting as we don’t have a designated councillor from Municipal Affairs,” stated Edwards in an email.
"Maybe follow the Morrin Discussion Facebook page. Information gets posted there usually.”
Several ECA Review staff members follow the social media page in question, and no information could be found about Morrin council meetings.
However, it should be noted that Nov. 19 Edwards posted an explanation why the 2019 Financial Statements apparently still remain under review.
During the discussion dated Nov. 19 Edwards stated, “To clarify some issues. The auditor is not only preparing the regular audit but has also been tasked with making sure all the tracking of expenses is up to date.
“The old computer crashed and could no longer be upgraded. A new computer was purchased at an excellent price from a local source.
"Now the auditor has made sure that the proper programs are in place and that the CAO is up to date on the software.
“When we have a councillor in place appointed by Municipal Affairs we can then publish the finances of the Village and minutes, etc.”
The next regular council is scheduled for Dec. 18.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, East Central Alberta Review