Municipal Affairs orders inspection of Village

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The Village of Longview will be under the microscope following a recent decision by Alberta Municipal Affairs to conduct an inspection of its operations.

Longview Mayor Kathie Wight received a letter by Alberta Municipal Affairs last week informing her that the Province will contract an independent consultant to look into matters connected with the Village’s management, administration and operations.

“I have no idea when it’s going to happen, I have no idea what questions they are going to ask or who they are going to talk to or exactly what’s going on,” said Wight. “There wasn’t a reason really for why they are going to come.”

Municipal Affairs conducted a preliminary review of the Village last spring to identify and better understand the concerns and issues that led to approximately 100 residents signing a petition seeking a provincial review a year ago.

The review consisted of interviews with council, municipal staff and petitioner representatives to identify areas of concern. No report has been released.

Although Wight said she sees no need for the review, she said she has no problem with it.

“It lets people know that things are being done correctly and there wasn’t anything untoward going on or anything,” she said. “I don’t know that anything was being done that was wrong. If they find something that needs something improved on that’s good, too.”

Petitioner Rick Smith said the decision for an inspection shows the preliminary review revealed issues the minister wants to delve into regarding the Village’s operations.

“It showed the petition had some merit,” he said. “This looks like it’s a very thorough review of everything that the Village has been doing, how it’s been doing it and the policies and the procedures that have been guiding it.”

The letter from Municipal Affairs states that “sufficient concerns remain that justify an in-depth review” and that the decision to implement an inspection was deferred until after October’s municipal election.

It also states that a municipal inspection is an extraordinary measure and is not undertaken lightly.

Smith said he was impressed with the preliminary review conducted in the spring.

“They were very thorough in their approach, very balanced,” he said. “They attempted to elicit consistent information by asking the same question of everybody.”

Moving into an inspection is a positive move for the village, Smith said.

“If there is nothing significant, that’s good, and if there is some things that should be discovered and need to be addressed, that’s good, too,” he said. “It’s a benefit to the village to have this done.”

Smith said an inspection of the village operations is an opportunity to correct any shortcoming that may exist.

“I’m sure they will identify if there are serious issues or any weaknesses that we should be correcting in terms of how Longview is managed,” he said. “We are getting this done by professionals who are very unbiased. At the end of the day the governance of Longview should be much more efficient.”

Smith said the petition was started by a group of concerned residents in December 2016 after council fired its chief administrative officer Vicky McGonigle the previous month.

“It wasn’t a pleasant situation and it all happened so quickly with no explanation and no transparency at all,” he said. “We had a series of CAOs over the years. That frustration had been building up.”

Residents were not only concerned that Longview has had nine vacancies for the CAO position since 2005, but also that the public felt it wasn’t getting the information it wanted from the Village, that minutes of meetings were sparse, there was animosity against councillors and meetings were held without the public being informed.

“The tipping point was the CAO,” Smith said. “It’s built up over many years just the feeling that things should be operating more smoothly. We want things to be more transparent and move forward in a positive way.

“We look forward to the conclusion of it all.”

The letter from Alberta Municipal Affairs states that when the inspection is complete, the inspector will provide a report to Anderson and a summary will be presented to council.

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