Alberta Minister of Municipal Affairs Ric McIver wasted no time dismissing Chestermere Mayor Jeff Colvin, four councillors and as all three Chief Administrative Officers following repeat governance issues on Monday.
“Overall, the City of Chestermere has not been compliant with its legal requirements,” Minister McIver announced during a press conference.
The decision followed a municipal inspection initiated in May 2022, revealing prolonged governance issues in Chestermere and non-compliance with the supervision of the Official Administrator appointed to supervise the municipality.
According to a provincial news release, the inspection report described the City of Chestermere as being “managed in an irregular, improper and improvident manner.”
Efforts to correct these issues, including 12 binding directives issued in March 2023 and the appointment of an official administrator in September 2022, were deemed insufficient by the province.
“After undertaking all reasonable efforts to have the city comply with its obligations, it has failed to do so,” said McIver, emphasizing the city’s continued non-compliance.
“I am profoundly disappointed that it has come to this, but the people of Chestermere deserve better. This community should be able to have trust in its local elected government.”
In addition to Mayor Colvin, the dismissed council members include Councillors Mel Foat, Blaine Funk, and Stephen Hanley.
McIver sent a letter to Chestermere on October 18, alerting the city of his intent to dismiss all seven council members and all three Chief Administrative Officers (CAOs) from the office. The letter required responses by November 2. After reviewing the responses, McIver said the city left him “no other reasonable choice.”
However, Councillors Shannon Dean, Sandy Johal-Watt, and Ritesh Narayan were spared and recognized for their efforts to ensure accountability and proper governance. They will remain elected councillors but will have no role in governance until the next byelection, which will occur in 2024.
The now ex-council members, led by Mayor Colvin, have contested the decision and plan to seek legal redress.
“We are looking forward to moving this forward through the courts. We will be continuing on with our judicial review,” Colvin stated on Monday, indicating a legal challenge to the dismissals.
Colvin and former city councillor Foat claimed that the city has been managed properly and is prospering financially.
“I don’t know how they can say that we are improper, irregular, or whatever. There is no city or town that has that type of a record,” Foat told CTV News.
Foat expressed a strong intention to escalate the matter legally, considering actions up to the Supreme Court of Canada, due to profound disappointment with the provincial government’s intervention in municipal affairs.
In the midst of these events, McIver reassured Chestermere residents about the continuation of municipal services.
“To the people of Chestermere, rest assured your rec facilities will remain open, your roads will be plowed, and your garbage will be collected,” he stated, aiming to address public concerns.
An appointed independent accounting firm will conduct a financial audit of the City of Chestermere. McIver has assured that the findings of this audit will be made public to the residents before the next byelection.