(Watch above: Gibbons town council has stripped its mayor of most of his powers for six months. Fletcher Kent speaks to councillors and the mayor.)
EDMONTON – A battle has been brewing in the Alberta town of Gibbons for several months and it’s finally boiled over.
Town council has unanimously voted to impose sanctions on Mayor Doug Horner which will limit his roles and responsibilities for six months.
Council has accused Horner of being involved in physical and verbal fights at a local pub as well as bullying council members and town employees, including an incident in which he allegedly verbally abused the town’s Chief Administrative Officer in a parking lot.
“I’m standing in the middle of the parking lot having the mayor yelling in my face incessantly,” said CAO Farrell O’Malley. “He’s swearing.”
“I’m in a professional environment just trying to have a conversation with the mayor and I’m being treated like a school yard kid being bullied.”
Horner disputes some of those claims.
“Some of them simply aren’t true,” he told Global News.
“I didn’t scream at all.”
Council also alleges Horner attended meetings without informing council and then failed to report the outcome of the meetings, and improperly granted a person an exemption to obtain a business license without council’s consent.
“He seems to forget he’s only one vote,” said Councillor Jean Woodger. “We’re the rest of the votes. He can’t do this on his own.”
Wedger says council asked him several times to “amend his ways.”
“It was very hard. This started within the first week of being elected officials.”
“His heart is in the right place,” she added. “He just goes about it in the wrong way. He’s put many people in – I wouldn’t say in jeopardy … in awkward positions.”
Horner’s authority to call special council meetings, sign bylaws and other legal documents, and serve as council’s spokesperson has been revoked. A deputy mayor – who will be appointed by council – will have all the official obligations and administrative responsibilities of mayor.
Horner’s access to the Town of Gibbons municipal offices has been limited to “pick up his mail and council packages and not to engage the staff in any manner other than a general enquiry that any member of council is entitled.”
Horner will remain a voting member of council and will continue to have the ceremonial title of mayor.
“It was not undertaken lightly,” said Darren McKee, another town councillor.
“There was just the disregard for the other council members… the complete disregard for council’s wishes and what council had set in place with motions.”
McKee says the intent isn’t to remove Horner as mayor.
Gibbons council will hold a mediation process that is scheduled to start in late August “to work towards a common vision that reflects the desires of the community in order to move our town forward.”
“So we’re hoping by the time mediation is done and after the six months is up, things can resume back to normal – or as close to normal as we can get,” said McKee.
Horner is also hopeful the mediation process will work.
“We have real issues that need our attention,” he said. “This is cutting into the work we should be doing to attract investment and people to our town and this is going to have a negative impact. I’m sure.”
“I don’t think it’s very fair at all to our town,” Horner added. “We have five new councillors with no experience, and that comes with its own set of challenges. I haven’t been very successful in overcoming those challenges.”
“I just haven’t been able to build a team out of this council.”
© Shaw Media, 2014