County of Stettler council was angry about a social media attack on their chief administrative officer (CAO) and reaffirmed their support for her at the regular meeting of council Sept. 8.
At the beginning of the regular meeting Coun. Wayne Nixon, when asked by Reeve Larry Clarke if there were any additions to the meeting agenda, stated he wanted to discuss the topic of harassment of county staff. Councillors agreed to discuss the subject.
Nixon stated he was concerned about staff, including the CAO, being harassed over the past month by Earl Marshall and James Marshall.
Nixon went on that he’d been notified of an incident between CAO Yvette Cassidy and county ratepayer and business owner James Marshall which apparently occurred Sept. 7 around 5:30 p.m. in the parking lot of the Stettler UFA.
Nixon stated the CAO was at the business to pick up something for her farm and was driving an unmarked County of Stettler vehicle when Marshall noticed the vehicle, took a photo of it and posted it on social media along with a message.
The ECA Review found the post in question (see screenshot) criticizing Cassidy for using a county vehicle for personal business.
“Most people can see how ridiculous that is,” said Nixon. “Nonetheless, that is what he did. It is out and out harassment in my opinion.”
Nixon stated he wanted Earl Marshall and James Marshall to stop harassing county staff and also wanted to make a motion that county vehicles may be used by county staff after hours who are on call, for example.
Nixon further stated he’s heard about other remarks made by James Marshall on social media criticizing the CAO and wanted the public to know councillors support Cassidy.
However, James Nibourg stated no motion was necessary as the county has already approved such use for Cassidy.
Nibourg stated it’s fine for Cassidy to use such a vehicle after hours as she’s on call and may have to respond to incidents and that a county vehicle is considered an extension of Cassidy’s office.
Nibourg added that if anybody else was coping with harassment like this the police would be involved.
Nibourg asked anyone who supports harassment like this should think about how it would feel if it was their family or employee who was the target.
Coun. Cheri Neitz stated it’s understood Cassidy may have to drive early in the morning on county business and it’s silly to make her drive all the way back to Stettler to pick up the county vehicle.
Coun. Ernie Gendre stated Cassidy is a dedicated employee and, for example, worked during the summer of 2020 to save ratepayers hundreds of thousands of dollars as the provincial government was considering changes to the way energy industry taxation is done.
Reeve Larry Clarke said he was “absolutely disgusted” by the incident and that the harassment councillors were discussing had “crossed the line” as it “appears to be a threat.”
Clarke stated Stettler County is very transparent, as anyone can watch public meetings on the county YouTube channel. He added the CAO is very transparent in her dealings and the county staff are good people who work hard.
Coun. Dave Grover stated he doesn’t use social media as he finds it’s a waste of time, but he asked Cassidy how many clean audits Stettler County has had recently. Cassidy answered, “Thirteen or 14.” Grover stated that stretches back over several councils and CAOs, so it speaks volumes.
Coun. Les Stulberg stated the incident in question “...was just one of many” which has been going on for sometime “constantly attacking the county.”
Stulberg stated attacks against the county are attacks against ratepayers and these incidents cost time and money better spent somewhere else. “It’s hurting the ratepayers...all this time is lost and it’s got to stop.”
Nibourg also asked that another closed session item be added to the agenda to discuss harassment of county staff.
Councillors agreed to do so.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, East Central Alberta Review