By Herald on April 8, 2021.
Dale Woodard – Lethbridge Herald
The majority of Lethbridge city council believe they should be financially compensated between nomination day and election day.
At their Tuesday meeting, city council defeated a motion stating during the newly established cancellation period of Sept. 20 (nomination day) through Oct. 18 (election day) that city council members cease to be publicly remunerated, unless a public emergency or event requires city council to reconvene at which point council members’ remuneration would resume at the established rate.
The motion was defeated 7-2 with council members pointing to the ongoing work they do away from council chambers.
“The role and responsibility I agreed to when I put my name on a ballot, regardless of whether you voted for me or not, the responsiblity as outlined by this very sacred text goes beyond this once-every-two-weeks meeting,” said councillor Jeff Coffman. “I understand why this motion is in front of us, but it underlines the very work some of us are trying to get other people to engage in.”
Coffman added his day is not filled with sitting in a council meeting.
“My day is filled with dealing with constituents and I have a number of constituents who I didn’t call after the last motion that council is not meeting because constituent work is part of what I do, helping people navigate City Hall and navigate processes and bring things forward. There things I’m working on that I may or may not see after the election and they’re still important and significant to our community. So it’s important and significant that that work continue.
“That work will continue up until the day of the election. In fact, I think, re-elected or not, my committment is to Oct. 31.”
Councillor Ryan Parker echoed Coffman’s sentiments of working right up to Oct. 31 and the work done away from City Hall.
“How many times have we returned phone calls and emails and met with citizens and how many times have you guys gone to Costco, even during the pandemic, where people pull you over?” he asked. “People need to talk to us and we do our work outside of council chambers. If anything, council chambers is nice because now we can just focus on a certain subject, but there are so many things that make us, as a member of council, we have so many different styles and ways or doing it.”
Parker said he still wanted the meetings to occur in September and early October.
“But the vote was taken. We could reconsider it, and hopefully we will. I don’t think we should be punished because we’re still doing the work even though those two meetings aren’t occurring. When you were first elected and you go through your orientation, you weren’t elected for 47 months, you were elected for 48 months. I don’t want us to forget that.
“There is so much stuff that happens behind the scenes with numerous committees, so I don’t expect that on Sept. 1 the mayor is not going to return phone calls, that the mayor isn’t going to go go functions and isn’t going to cut ribbons or meet with business executives or citizens or take complaints regarding something happening in our community. Just like the rest of us. We still are going to do our work. I just think some of us are disappointed that those other two meetings won’t be there, but that doesn’t justify this resolution.”
Councillor Joe Mauro and acting mayor Blaine Hyggen voted in favour of the motion.
“The more I think about it the more this resolution makes a lot of sense to me simply because council chose, by a vote, that we were going to stop council meetings,” said Mauro. “We are going to stop council’s work. That was voted on and that was approved, which therefore tells me we are saying that during the campaign, the last month of this term, we are no longer working as council because it gives council members that want to run again an advantage over anybody else putting their name forward. I think that was the intent and even though I voted against it because I felt we should get paid because that’s what we’re elected for, I see the validity of that, because council members would be in an advantageous position during the campaign.
“Having said that, because council voted in favour of it, I don’t understand why we’re questioning this particular resolution. If we’ve chosen based on the past resolution that we’re not working any more as council and we’ve eliminated council meetings, we shouldn’t get paid and that makes total sense to me. I know it’s a small drop in the overall operating budget of the city, but I think it’s fact and it’s appropriate. We’re not working, we shouldn’t get paid.”
Mayor Spearman said even though he’s not running in the next election, he did commit to doing his job until the end of his term.
“If there is an important new investor coming to town, I’m happy to meet with them,” he sid. “The mayor’s job is a full time job and I will continue to serve with passion and vigour until the new mayor is sworn in. There are documents that have to be signed and other things that happen on a daily basis that involve the mayor’s job and just because we’re not having council meetings doens’t mean I shouldn’t ben compensated for the work I do.”
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