Rocky View councillors sue own county for docked pay

The county is seeking to stay that payment while it appeals Eamon’s ruling

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A trio of Rocky View councillors are suing their own county for salary they say was improperly withheld over a dispute with their colleagues.

In June 2019, councillors Crystal Kissel, Samanntha Wright and Kevin Hanson were sanctioned for how they objected to the hiring of chief administrative officer Al Hoggan.

Other lawmakers accused them of using inappropriate comments in a newspaper letter to the editor and sharing information with unauthorized parties.

Responsibilities such as board and committee work were suspended for 13 months and their pay reduced by 30 per cent to reflect that.

But last summer, Court of Queen’s Bench Justice James Eamon struck down the workload sanctions, prompting the councillors to seek $32,000 in salary they say is now owed each of them.

The county is seeking to stay that payment while it appeals Eamon’s ruling.

“They need to pay us and if we lose the appeal, we’ll pay it back,” said Hanson.

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“Everything’s been accrued by the county to pay us, it’s been budgeted, it’s on the books.”

Hanson said council had no authority to order administration to reduce their pay in the first place, he added.

Since last summer’s ruling, the three say they’ve been quietly urging the county and fellow councillors to release the money they insist they’re owed.

But Hanson said council’s dithering over seeking a legal opinion on the matter has given them no choice but to head back to court.

“We’ve been patient . . . they’re just stalling,” he said.

The lawmaker said he, Kissel and Wright have sought to rise above the tensions with council colleagues created by the impasse, but he couldn’t help express frustration.

“We don’t take it personally, we don’t hold grudges — we’re just working for our ratepayers as hard as we can,” said Hanson.

“This is just about ego and it’s now a big guy beats up a little guy. They’re just arguing for argument’s sake.”

He said the legal fight has cost the three $130,000 while council uses taxpayers’ money to fight them.

Other councillors, including Reeve Dan Henn, said they couldn’t comment due to the looming legal actions.

“Between the suit being filed and the appeal going forward, I’ve been advised by county counsel to reserve comment,” said Henn.

In its claim of defence, the county insists that even if Eamon had rightly set aside sanctions against the trio, it “denies the plaintiff suffered injuries, losses, damages or expenses.”

The county’s appeal likely won’t be heard until next year and their back pay suit could take even longer to make it to court and long after October’s municipal elections, making the entire drama seem expensively absurd, said Hanson.

Most Rocky View residents are unaware of the dispute but, even so, it casts the county in a bad light, he added.

“People in the know just can’t believe it,” said Hanson.

Rocky View County, which surrounds Calgary on three sides, had a population of 40,695 in 2019.

BKaufmann@postmedia.com

Twitter: @BillKaufmannjrn

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