Rocky View County rejects counteroffer from sanctioned councilors

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Rocky View County Council rejected a counteroffer from councilors Kevin Hanson, Samanntha Wright and Deputy Mayor Crystal Kissel behind closed doors on Feb. 1, but it’s unclear what the offer was.

Penalties were imposed on the three councilors after they were accused of breaching the council’s code of conduct for sending a letter to the Weekly Rock View in 2019. The language used in the letter was deemed discourteous and disrespectful by board colleagues. The penalties were overturned by the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench in 2020.

The February 1 meeting comes after the issue was discussed privately at the November 30, 2021 meeting, when the board voted 2-2 to withdraw its previous appeal against Judge James Eamon’s verdict.

The following week, the board ordered the administration to withdraw the appeal “with conditions.”

In a statement to Weekly Rock View on February 2, the county said that since that meeting in early December, RVC staff had been working under these conditions and that the board was to receive an update on February 1.

“Please be aware that the information itself is protected and it was legally required that counsel travel behind closed doors to protect the confidentiality of the matter,” the statement said.

“The board still intends to resolve the matter if possible, and we once again ask for … patience as we continue to navigate this process to meet the board’s December 7 decision. When we are able to share more information, we will certainly do so.

Last July, Kissel filed a notice of motion to withdraw the appeal of Kissel County et al against Rocky View County. Eamon’s verdict in that legal battle, handed down in July 2020, was to overturn sanctions previously imposed on Kissel, Hanson and Wright.

READ MORE: Deleted item sparks row among RVC advisers

Hanson said he, Kissel and Wright had to recuse themselves from the Feb. 1 closed-door discussion because they are directly involved.

“It would have been really nice to put everything in a cardboard box, tape it shut, put it all behind us, and move on,” Hanson said. “It could still happen – we will have to see. We have until the middle of the month to do a bit of back-and-forth before we have to commit to putting attorneys to work on appellate cases, both for the county and for us.

The div. 1 councilor said the rest of council’s decision to reject the counter-offer came as no surprise to him. He said he could not discuss specifics due to its legal nature.

“It’s a complicated business with a lot of moving parts and a lot of history,” he said. “I think it’s hard for everyone to understand all these moving parts. I think the three of us are pretty much in control, because it’s closer to home, so to speak, because we pay the lawyers directly and we’re a little more involved.

After Eamon overturned the sanctions in July 2020, Hanson, Wright and Kissel sued RVC for $96,000 in back wages in March 2021, arguing that they should be reimbursed for their lost wages.

The $32,000 requested by each adviser reflects their reduced salary during the 13-month period in which they were sanctioned.

“The three of us continue to really want to move forward and put this behind us,” Hanson said. “It has to be fair, though, and I think you could say we understand the county needs to be protected and they have their interests, but we also need to be treated fairly. We are totally open to a fair settlement and to put it aside and move on.

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