The Ministry of Municipal Affairs has rejected the request for an investigation into Coaldale town council after a group of concerned citizens submitted a petition in December 2020.
Citizens for a Better Coaldale was hoping for a municipal inspection to address concerns raised by residents, including lack of public consultation into major spending projects and allegations of a toxic workplace and bullying by town management.
“As part of the petition submission, we had points of concern by citizens of Coaldale and the number one was being accountable to the citizens,” said the group’s spokesperson Jack Van Rijn on Wednesday.
Van Rijn is a former town councillor and mayoral candidate. When asked by Global News if he plans on running for a position in the upcoming October election, he said he is undecided.
“Transparency and communication were other big ones that were part of our petition concerns.”
However, on Tuesday, the concerned parties were notified the submission was rejected.
“(We) take seriously any requests into municipal governance concerns put forward by Albertans. This is why we initiated a preliminary review following a petition for an inspection by residents in the town of Coaldale,” read a statement from the press secretary for the Minister of Municipal Affairs McKenzie Kibler.
“Municipal inspections are extraordinary measures and are not to be taken lightly. While this review did identify some concerns, we do not believe they are sufficiently severe to warrant a full inspection of the Town of Coaldale.”
While an investigation won’t go forward at this time, Coaldale is being ordered to partake in a Municipal Accountability Program review this year, which “addresses municipal compliance with legislative requirements,” the statement said.
“We have also suggested the town look into conflict coaching and conflict resolution workshops for addressing intramunicipal conflict in the future,” Kibler added.
Van Rijn said while this isn’t the outcome the group was hoping for, they’re glad the province is stepping in to address the red flags it found.
“I’m hoping for positive results from the MAP program,” he said, “with the province coming in and making recommendations and setting goals that the Town of Coaldale has to meet.”
Mayor Kim Craig said the inspection would have been an unjustified, unnecessary and unwarranted expense.
“I do think that this kind of puts an end point to a very divisive time in the town,” he said.
Craig added council will be working to prepare for the MAP review “right away.”
“That will be a process where they review various documents, town minutes and bylaws, procedures, code of conduct, a litany of different items they would like to look at,” he explained, adding he looks forward to feedback from a provincial level and hearing more from residents.
“We recognize throughout the feedback process from the citizens’ group and other groups perhaps we could try and see if there’s ways to improve.”
According to the province, MAP reviews are a multi-year process.