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Alberta premier says ‘anonymous letter’ forwarded to Edmonton ethics commissioner

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Alberta premier says ‘anonymous letter’ forwarded to Edmonton ethics commissioner
New details emerge about allegations made in a document the Alberta government claimed it received. While Premier Danielle Smith says it elevates concerns around Edmonton city council, one expert says this was mishandled. Kabi Moulitharan reports – Apr 20, 2024

Danielle Smith says an anonymous letter the province received three weeks ago has been forwarded to the City of Edmonton Ethics Commissioner.

The premier made the comments on her weekly radio show Our Province, Our Premier on 630 CHED.

“We were told that there was some ethics concern,” Smith said referring to the letter.

“When we receive an ethics concern about a municipal council member, we forward that on to the ethics commissioner on the municipal level because that’s the appropriate thing to do.”

Smith would not elaborate on the contents of the letter, except to say the allegations were “defamatory.”

“As I understand it, it was an anonymous letter with some allegations, that could be defamatory, so I think it’s best for us to put it forward and leave it in the process,” Smith continued. “I don’t think we would make every single piece of correspondence that comes into every single office available. It wasn’t a government document. It wasn’t produced by us, that’s my understanding of how the FOIP law works.”

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“If a council member received a concern about an MLA – they would forward it on to the provincial ethics officer, so the letter was received in Ric McIver’s officer and it was forwarded on to the Edmonton ethics commissioner,” Smith continued.

On March 27, Smith told reporters she had various concerns about the City of Edmonton but three weeks after highlighting the letter which Smith said raised concerns about the City of Edmonton, a Freedom of Information request failed to find the document. At the time, critics questioned why the premier would intervene in municipal governance without showing proof that intervention was necessary.

“This whole story from the beginning has raised a lot of questions,” said Lori Williams, associate professor of policy studies at the Mount Royal University in Calgary.

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“There are real questions about why the premier would raise questions about the governance of a municipality based on a rumored letter that hadn’t even been received at the time that the comments were made,” Williams said.

“We now know it’s unsigned and it isn’t producible in a Freedom of Information Act Privacy request. If this is the kind of info that might justify intervention by the provincial government in a municipality, I think a lot of people are going to question what the provincial government is doing,” she said.

On Saturday’s radio show Smith said she’s had concerns about the number of senior leaders that had recently left the City of Edmonton along with concerns about funding shortfalls the city is facing.

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“We have, I think, seven or eight senior leaders that have left the City of Edmonton. That caused us some concern and we had also heard that they were having significant challenges being able to bridge the gap on a funding shortfall, without a massive property tax increase,” Smith explained.

“The mayor has since written me a letter, giving us some advice about how we might be able to help. So I’m meeting with him and our minister of municipal affairs to see what we might be able to do.”

Edmonton city councillor Andrew Knack called the premier’s handling of the letter “irresponsible.”

“She has to first verify is this true, and then if it is, she’ll provide a report to council and then there will be a public discussion,” Knack said.

“Respect for the different levels of government has to be taken seriously,” Williams said. “We don’t want to have the appearance that she is basing allegations, or even investigations, into what’s going on in another level of government- based on things like rumors and anonymous letters.”

On Monday, the city’s integrity commissioner sent Global News the following statement:

The Office of the Minister of Municipal Affairs forwarded an anonymous letter they received for review by my office.

This letter will first be reviewed according to the process found in the City of Edmonton Council Code of Conduct Bylaw 18483. If I determine that the content of the letter falls within the jurisdiction of the Council Code of Conduct and should be investigated, the investigation process is usually completed within 90 days from the date I determine that an investigation is necessary.

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If the matter is complex or there are other factors requiring more time, it may require more than 90 days. If I find that there has been a breach of the Code of Conduct, I give my report to City Council. If I find no breach, then no report is given to Council.

I cannot comment on whether I am investigating any Councillor in particular. It is only after I find that an allegation made against a Councillor has been substantiated that this is given to Council and may become public knowledge on a Council Agenda and then at a Council Meeting.

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