Roughly two months after Prince Albert’s new Board of Police Commissioners was unveiled, city council is still debating whether Mayor Greg Dionne followed proper procedure.
Debate began on Monday after council received a letter accusing the mayor of disregarding the Saskatchewan Police Act when he introduced the new board before their appointments had been approved by city council.
The letter expressed support for police board chair Sheryl Kimbley and other candidates, but was extremely critical of how council debated and approved their appointments. That criticism drew the ire of Ward 5 Coun. Dennis Ogrodnick, who argued that procedure was properly followed, and kicked off a 15-minute debate during executive committee.
For his part, Dionne has no regrets about how the issue was handled, calling the current board “one of the best commissions” the city has appointed.
“When I became mayor six years ago, the mayor solely by himself appointed two members of council to the police commission, and two civilians,” Dionne said. “The mayor. Not council. I ran (on making) this police commission a community board. Council supported me, and added two more civilians and I also made it clear that I would be making those recommendations both to council and to the Board of Police Commissioners for approval, so if I wanted to be a dictator, as some people suggest in this letter, and some of my colleagues, I could have left it the way it was and been the sole person to appoint the police commission, but I thought that was wrong.”
Ogrodnick, Ward 4 Coun. Don Cody and Ward 6 Coun. Blake Edwards were Dionne’s post vocal defenders during Monday’s meeting. Ogrodnick listed off six points of disagreement with the letter-writer, namely that she was wrong to suggest the behavior of council was out of order and that the letter mischaracterized the actions of city clerk Sherry Person. The letter-writer was referring to a council meeting on Dec. 10 where the candidates were officially approved four days after being introduced to the media.
“It needs to be pointed out that we have rules to follow during our meetings,” Orgodnick argued during a six-minute address to council. “I did interrupt, (but) on a point of order. That’s what I did. I rose on a point of order, because I felt a councillor was out of order in his attack on the mayor at that particular moment. I rose on a point of order, which our laws and our rules say you can do.”
Ogrodnick added that neither council nor the mayor owed residents an apology for how the issue was handled. Instead, he said residents like the letter-writer owned council an apology for what he called attacks on the mayor.
Coun. Cody argued that the mayor was well within his rights to introduce candidates to the media since they were already known to the general public. Edwards also argued that procedure had been followed, agreeing with Ogrodnick that the complaints amounted to an attack on the mayor.
“We’ve followed everything that we needed to do, yet it continues to be challenged, and I believe it’s a challenge and an attack on the mayor, and this is unfortunate,” Edwards said.
Critics of the appointment process dismissed talk that they were out of line to ask questions about how it was handled.
Ward 2 Coun. Terra Lennox-Zepp said even if everything is handled properly, it’s still important to have a transparent process. Ward 3 Coun. Evert Both, who raised the original objections to the process back in December, reiterated his support for Kimbley, but also remained steadfast in his belief that the city was overstepping its bounds. He also defended the letter-writer for voicing her concerns.
“Justice must not just be done,” Lennox-Zepp said. “It must be seen to be done, and it is unusual for people who are just recommended to a community to be announced at a press conference and shown to the public as if they are the future committee. There may be an issue here of perception.”
“I think we do live in a democracy where residents can engage with city hall and city council,” Botha added. “I think anybody that watches on cable, on Shaw, could see what the resident was concerned about…. Residents can correspond with city hall and this is one of those instances. I don’t think there’s anything here that the resident is at fault with, other perhaps than the comment on the city clerk.”