Wheatland County Councillor Glenn Koester is challenging the County’s decision regarding a complaint he received last year suggesting he violated the County’s Code of Conduct.
Koester has chosen to take Wheatland County to the Court of King’s Bench regarding the County’s decision to sanction him regarding the decided violation, which saw him removed from all nine municipal boards he sat on as part of his elected duties as a councillor, among other resolutions.
The original complaint against him was filed March 1, 2022 by County Reeve Amber Link. Until this time, Koester noted in his affidavit to the court he had never been subject to a prior complaint against him since his original election to county council in 2003.
In his affidavit, Koester explained the allegations advanced in the complaint related to actions taken by the Wheatland and Adjacent Districts Emergency Medical Services (WADESMA) Board of Directors, and actions taken by the Wheatland Housing Management Body (WHMB) Board of Directors.
Both bodies of which, Koester was the chairperson at the time before his removal due to the sanctions imposed by the County.
Koester’s affidavit states he received an email from Link on November 12, 2021, requesting a document outlining funding which would have been required to eliminate core-flex shifting for WADESMA operations.
Core-flex shifting refers to a scheduling provision whereby an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) staff member is on duty and their shift is comprised of what are regarded as core hours, flex hours, and on-call hours.
During the WADESMA Board meeting on November 15, 2021, Koester said he solicited feedback from the board regarding the email. He added several board members raised concerns Link was communicating on WADESMA matters without board involvement or approval.
Koester stated during the discussion, one board member, who was not named, raised a question as to whether a conflict of interest pertaining to Link existed due to her husband’s employment with WADESMA.
In his affidavit, he states to have never accused, nor raised the potential of a conflict of interest with respect to Link. He adds he did not accuse her of acting based on pecuniary self-interest, and nor did any other board member.
As chairperson of the board, Koester suggested an informal, friendly meeting between himself, Link, and WADESMA Vice-Chairperson Darcy Burke. This request was ultimately declined by Link, who suggested WADESMA present its concerns to County Council.
At the January 17, 2022 WADESMA Board meeting, Koester reported Link’s refusal to the informal meeting invitation, and willingness to meet in the presence of County Council.
By this time, WADESMA had been informed by Alberta Health Services (AHS) of a proposal to change shifting arrangements, which Koester said rendered the original core-flex shifting discussion moot.
Link was noted to have not been present for either the November 15, 2021 nor the January 17, 2022 WADESMA Board meetings.
Koester denies his role in the “WADESMA ISSUE” having constituted a violation of the Wheatland County Council Code of Conduct, those events being grounds for sanctions based on alleged breaches of the code, and noted he had no intention to damage Link’s reputation.
Link’s complaint regarding the WHMB is with respect to Councillor Tom Ikert, who according to the complaint had been treated with a complete lack of respect and put in an embarrassing situation. Koester denies the allegation.
Koester stated within his affidavit, during the WHMB Board meeting on or about November 18, 2021, he provided a report on his attendance at a meeting of the Alberta Senior Citizen Housing Association (ASCHA).
His report shared a poll had been taken at the ASCHA meeting about whether management bodies had implemented vaccination policies for its board members. It was at this time, during Koester’s report, another board member (unspecified in the affidavit) motioned to institute a vaccination policy.
The WHMB proceeded to vote on and pass a COVID-19 vaccination policy for its board members, seven to two. Koester did not raise the motion himself and denies imposing or pressuring other board members to vote in favour of the motion.
Ikert, who was present for the discussion, is noted by Koester to have not raised concerns or objections with respect to the policy until the vote, wherein he voted against.
Link was noted to have not been present for the discussion and motion at the November 18, 2021 WHMB Board meeting.
Koester was not made aware the motion to pass the vaccination policy had caused embarrassment to Ikert until receiving Link’s Code of Conduct violation complaint.
Ikert resigned from his position on the WHMB on March 1, 2022, following his receipt of a reprimand letter from the WHMB regarding a prior inflammatory email Ikert sent on or about January 10, 2022, which Koester suggested undermined the actions of the WHMB.
The letter of reprimand was issued on or about February 7, 2022. It did not impose disciplinary actions against Ikert, and did not suggest he resign from the position, though did request an apology for the offending email.
According to Koester, Ikert never responded to the letter of reprimand prior to his resignation from the WHMB.
COUNTY INVESTIGATION AND SANCTIONS
Wheatland County Council appointed Douglas Henderson of Transitional Solutions Inc. to investigate Link’s complaint.
According to the information provided in Councillor Rick Laursen’s affidavit, Henderson described he had no formal investigation training during their interview, though felt himself qualified for the position having previously been a Chief Administrative Officer for an unspecified organization.
Laursen reported he believed Henderson’s investigation to be flawed and the evidence gathered was insufficient to support the conclusions made in the investigation report.
Despite efforts from Koester to have the details of the code of conduct violation, as well as the investigation report made public, Wheatland County Council defeated both motions in votes of four to three against, and kept the documents held in-camera.
Link, Ikert, Deputy Reeve Scott Klassen and Councillor Donna Biggar voted against releasing the documents out of camera for both votes.
This information is reflected in the affidavits provided to the court by Denise Peterson, and by Rick Laursen, who were both sworn in December 2022, as well as via the evidence provided by Koester, which are available to the public via the court.
Koester’s lawyer, Colby Georgsen, says he will not be making further comment regarding the issue, as it is now before the courts.
According to Georgsen, it is scheduled to be addressed again in early 2024.