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Edmonton councillor at the centre of anonymous letter sent to province speaks out

Click to play video: 'Edmonton councillor at centre of letter sent to province speaks out'
Edmonton councillor at centre of letter sent to province speaks out
Councillor Keren Tang says comments made by the premier are 'irresponsible' after Danielle Smith spoke about a letter containing claims about Tang. Breanna Karstens-Smith reports. – Apr 24, 2024

Almost one month after Alberta Premier Danielle Smith spoke publicly about a letter that she said raised concerns about the City of Edmonton, Global News has obtained the document.

The two-page letter is signed “a concerned citizen.”

In it, the person raises a concern about Ward Karhiio Coun. Keren Tang.

Tang’s husband is the co-founder of a non-profit organization. That group received a sponsorship from an Edmonton technology organization.

That technology organization later leased land from the City of Edmonton as part of the Edmonton Research Park development.

Tang attended a March 23, 2022, executive committee meeting where councillors discussed the Edmonton Research Park which is in Tang’s ward.

She put questions to multiple speakers, including representatives of the technology organization in question.

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“I observe that Councillor Tang went out of her way to procure information for the public that would specifically benefit (the company),” the anonymous letter alleges.

“Second, she also went out of her way to attend meetings, ask questions and shape committee and council discussions that lead to a favourable lease and purchase agreement,” the person wrote.

Click to play video: 'Edmonton city councillors call on Danielle Smith for apology on anonymous letter comments'
Edmonton city councillors call on Danielle Smith for apology on anonymous letter comments

In an exclusive interview with Global News on Wednesday, Tang said she attended the meeting and asked questions because she is passionate about the project.

“I’ve been very public about my interest in the Edmonton Research Park. I ran on a platform to be elected to rejuvenate and reinvigorate this research park,” Tang said.

Tang went on to say that she and all Edmonton city councillors regularly discuss potential conflicts of interest with a city representative.

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“From day one I have always sought the advice of our ethics advisor to understand what are my interests when it comes to whether it’s this issue or any other issue,” Tang said.

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The Alberta government received the anonymous letter at the end of March.

At a March 27 news conference, Smith told reporters she had various concerns about the City of Edmonton.

She did not get into details aside from saying the city is dealing with significant financial troubles, something Edmonton city council has been open about.

Smith did say some of her concerns stemmed from hearing that a letter was being sent to the minister of Municipal Affairs.

“I don’t want to pre-judge what may or may not be in a letter that we’ve been told that we’ll receive,” the premier told reporters.

“I just wouldn’t mind seeing the letter, talking to my Municipal Affairs minister and seeing if there’s anything more that we need to do.”

Click to play video: 'Alberta premier says ‘anonymous letter’ forwarded to Edmonton ethics commissioner'
Alberta premier says ‘anonymous letter’ forwarded to Edmonton ethics commissioner

Smith would not elaborate on what she understood the letter to contain.

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She did say it and other complaints raised concerns and that the province was willing to step in and help Edmonton fix problems the document had identified.

Tang says she found out she was named in the letter within recent days and says the premier commenting on it before she had see the document is “irresponsible.”

“Our leader’s words carry weight and I think for her to put something out there, I want to say so carelessly, puts the City of Edmonton at a great amount of risk,” Tang said.

She added that politicians at all level of government have vast networks and rely on ethics advisors to help guide them in avoiding any potential conflicts of interest.

“That’s something I think the premier and her government are aware of because they are also abiding by some of the similar kinds of expectations, so I’m confused as to why she would put out comments like that that’s unsubstantiated.”

Mount Royal University political scientist Lori Williams agrees.

“It isn’t appropriate to speculate about an entire city council and its competence based on an anonymous letter with such tentative allegations,” Williams said Wednesday.

Williams said the premier’s comments on the letter are the latest example of the province stepping into municipal issues.

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She also pointed to Bill 18, which inserts the province into funding arrangements between the federal and municipal governments, and legislation which will be tabled Thursday that would create political parties in municipal politics.

“It doesn’t make any sense at all why the provincial government feels it has to battle against the elected representatives or the governments or the councils of municipalities,” Williams said.

On April 20, Smith was asked about the document on her weekly radio show, Our Province Our Premier on 630 CHED.

“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 said.

The City of Edmonton’s integrity commissioner sent Global News a statement confirming the letter had been received.

“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,” Jamie Pytel wrote.

Because that process has started, Tang did not want to get into more specifics, saying all levels of government should see how the process plays out.

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“Rather than throwing mud I think we should be ethical, be responsible with our words,” Tang said.

Smith was not made available to answer questions about the document on Wednesday.

Global News asked her press secretary whether the allegations made in the letter were something the premier should be involved in and speaking publicly about.

“The premier and the minister spoke to the letter in response to questions from the media,” wrote Sam Blackett.

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