The County of Stettler council will remove a lengthy response to a business owner’s delegation which the municipality had posted on its website.
The decision was made after the business owner’s family requested the removal through a letter to council at their Nov. 10 regular meeting.
Crystal Marshall’s letter asked the council to remove council’s response to a delegation made by her husband James Marshall at the July 14 regular council meeting.
During the appearance James Marshall discussed a number of grievances he had with Stettler County primarily through his gravel hauling business. The Marshall’s delegation can be viewed on the county’s YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rvj7CNAYUS4. James Marshall’s delegation begins at the 1:34:36 point of the video.
County Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Yvette Cassidy told Crystal Marshall in an email that council originally directed staff to place the response on the website, so it was up to council to decide if it’s taken down.
In her request Crystal Marshall stated leaving the responses on the website didn’t meet county bylaw 1595-18’s public advertising rules. “Also note in your own bylaw it talks about two weeks, yet it has been up since Aug. 12, 2021, over two months,” stated Crystal Marshall’s letter dated Oct. 19.
“James has asked Andrew Brysiuk in person to take it down on Sept. 21 due to multiple inaccuracies as I am sure you are aware of, but yet it still remains. Use the public notices for what they are designed to be used for (and) take this inaccurate document down. Do what is right and take this down for the multiple reasons I have listed.”
Reeve Larry Clarke noted that Crystal Marshall’s letter referred to untruths in the county’s response and asked staff what that meant.
Director of Municipal Services Andrew Brysiuk stated one concern was raised that there was an impression of an allegation of fraud in the county response but that the concern must have been resolved because it was not mentioned again and a second concern was voiced that the response described a certain road as paved when it actually is only partially paved.
“Those are the only inaccuracies that we are aware of having been raised,” said Brysiuk.
Coun. James Nibourg stated the county doesn’t usually post delegation responses, but this was different.
“This particular delegation came with multiple, multiple concerns in one delegation,” said Nibourg. He added that it was prudent to post the county responses not just to the Marshalls but to the other delegations that day. But Nibourg stated he doesn’t hear many requests for information about this issue and saw no problem with taking it off the website.
Coun. Les Stulberg stated that council meeting was very busy and by posting the response on the website it ensured the public had a chance to see how council responded to all the delegations.
Stulberg stated that Crystal Marshall’s letter claims the county wasn’t following its bylaw but Stulberg said she was misinterpreting the bylaw.
“The reply was factual, for sure,” said Stulberg, adding he also saw no problem with removing the response.
Coun. Dave Grover noted the Marshalls are still questioning bylaws so maybe it would be best to leave information on the county website rather than remove it. Grover added everything in the county’s response was factual and it should stay up longer.
Coun. Justin Stevens stated he supported taking the response down and council should, “...move forward and put this behind us.”
Reeve Clarke stated posting the response was a sign of transparency and that there were no inaccuracies in the response as staff, lawyers and council went over it many times before it was adopted. He also stated Crystal Marshall was wrong when claiming the response violated the bylaw.
“There’s no truth to that either,” said Clarke, who noted the response could remain online indefinitely.
Nibourg noted he agreed with his fellow councillor. “Like Mr. Stevens says, it’s time to turn down the heat”.
Coun. Ernie Gendre stated he feels the county takes its time with some issues and consults lawyers to ensure the municipality and ratepayers are protected, while he also supported taking down the response, “...but I don’t want to see any more continuing actions in the future.”
Stulberg’s motion to have the July, 2021 council delegation responses taken off the county website by the end of November was passed by a 4 to 3 vote, Stulberg, Nibourg, Stevens and Gendre in favour, Clarke, Coun. Paul McKay and Grover opposed.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, East Central Alberta Review