Strathmore councillor investigation proceeding

·3 min read

Strathmore town council formalized an investigation into the alleged conduct of Councillor Denise Peterson by approving the hiring of a firm to conduct a third-party review.

Councillor Jason Montgomery raised a complaint regarding Peterson’s alleged conduct during the Oct. 21 town council meeting. In a written statement in that meeting’s agenda package, Montgomery alleges Peterson engaged in eight breaches of council conduct or procedure.

Following discussions in that Oct. 21 meeting, the council directed administration to provide a list of possible investigators to review the allegations in a 6-1 vote.

In the March 3 council meeting, three possible investigators were presented for consideration: George Cuff, Strategic Steps and Transitional Solutions. Of the three, Town of Strathmore chief administrative officer Doug Lagore recommended George Cuff.

“(He) will not only give you a broad perspective of the complaint on that investigation, but he will also tell you how you can try and build a relationship to work forward as a group. You will get the best results using him.”

A proposal for George Cuff was not included in the March 3 agenda package, however.

Transitional Solutions’ proposal provided an estimate of $8,000 to conduct the investigation. However, Councillor Lorraine Bauer said she was not in favour of that option because Lagore is a current employee of that company.

Strategic Steps’ proposal did not include a detailed budget, as it states the “scope and complexity of the investigation is not well defined at this point.”

The firm charges $2,500 per day for a senior consultant, plus travel costs and other expenses. However, its proposal states a cost cap may be agreed upon prior to the start of the investigation and that a cap of $10,000 to $15,000 is “likely reasonable.”

Bauer asked why a firm she suggested after they were proposed by a constituent was not included in the list of investigators. Mayor Pat Fule said according to the town’s bylaws, an individual councillor cannot direct the CAO to bring something forward or to complete a task. The original motion directed administration to present the list of possible investigators, he added.

Councillor Bob Sobol said he supports resolving the matter through mediation, rather than third-party investigation. The less costly option was previously suggested by Lagore. However, this path would require Montgomery to withdraw his complaint, said Sobol.

“My reasoning for this is that if he did not withdraw, we could very well find ourselves in the same predicament after mediation as we are now.”

But Montgomery said it was up to Peterson to avoid the cost of an investigation. “I’d rather not spend money on this, on mediation (or) on anything else,” he said. “If Councillor Peterson is unwilling to admit fault where she had faulted and to apologize for that, I think it’s up to Councillor Peterson to decide whether or not she thinks it’s worth spending this money or not. Our council has a process and I’m following that process.”

In a motion proposed by Bauer, Strategic Steps was proposed to lead the investigation. The motion passed in a 4-3 vote, with Fule, Peterson and Sobol voting in opposition.

Sean Feagan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Strathmore Times