Judge upholds ministerial orders on troubled Thorhild County


Judge upholds ministerial orders on troubled Thorhild County
  1. Judge upholds ministerial orders on troubled Thorhild County
    edmontonsun.com
    A judge dismissed arguments by an embattled northern Alberta county Friday that the minister of municipal affairs had violated its rights to "procedural…
    Alberta

A judge dismissed arguments by an embattled northern Alberta county Friday that the minister of municipal affairs had violated its rights to "procedural fairness."

Dozens of Thorhild County residents crowded the benches of an Edmonton courtroom to hear the decision — including the reeve and two councillors who were fired by the minister in 2016 for failing to comply with the orders being disputed in court Friday.

Through an injunction, Reeve Dan Buryn and councillors Wayne Croswell and Larry Sisson have resumed working in their elected positions, and make up the majority of the five-person council.

During the judicial review, Thorhild County argued that Court of Queen's Bench Justice John Little should quash three ministerial orders that were issued following a "scathing" inspection report that detailed accounts of animosity between councillors, biased decision making, problems with the chief administrative officer, and repeated violations of the Municipal Act.

The county's lawyer, Ian Wachowicz, argued the council members and staff weren't given an opportunity to defend themselves or respond to the report before the ministerial orders were issued, and said the extent of the level of intervention in county affairs by the minister "extraordinary."

"This is the nuclear bomb of municipal law," he said.

In response, the minister's lawyer, William Olthuis, argued that the minister's actions had been "reasoned, cautious and measured."

Little found that while the execution may have been "heavy handed," the minister's actions were fair.

Speaking outside the courthouse during an adjournment, Buryn said the lack of opportunity to respond to the allegations made against him, or any of the administrative actions by Municipal Affairs, amounts to a "non-partisan coup d'état."

"It's been absolute torture," Buryn said.

The report was commissioned by the minister after a petition signed by 691 residents — amounting to about 20 per cent of the county's electorate — was forwarded to the minister in July 2014 requesting an inquiry into the council and behaviour of the county's chief administrative officer.

Angela Zilinski was the petition representative and was in court Friday for the decision. She said concerns about council's decision-making and spending…

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