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Chestermere mayor calls inspection report 'distortion of facts'

The findings of a provincial probe into the City of Chestermere's governance are being described as "fictional" by Mayor Jeff Colvin.

Colvin posted a 27-minute video online on Saturday.

"The report that we had was a complete distortion of the facts. Minister (Rebecca) Schulz was dropped into this mess that was created by the previous minister, minister (Ric) McIver."

Colvin blasted the 215-page report, saying throughout the inspection, he was never provided with evidence of the accusations levelled against him and other members of council.

The report, drafted by third-party inspector George Cuff, found 17 legislative violations – something Colvin believes was created by "hearsay."

"They weren't willing to share information with us. They weren't willing to share any evidence with us," Colvin said.

"So, a lot of this information that you're seeing for the first time, we're seeing for the first time, and we never knew what was on the other side."

But the report was first presented to the mayor and council behind closed doors last fall, with the city being given an opportunity to respond. It did not, and sent the report back to the province.

Colvin claimed there was bias in the report.

According to the province, the City of Chestermere is being managed improperly, irregularly and improvidently, and as a result of the report, 12 directives were set out for council and administration to follow.

"When you break down each one of those directives, it really shows that there was nothing to the inspection," Colvin said.

"That's what we've been saying from the beginning. These directives, for the most part, we've already been doing. Most of his (Cuff's) report was really hearsay."

Lori Williams, associate professor of policy studies at Mount Royal University, says Colvin appears to be absolving all forms of responsibility by saying there are no problems within the city.

"There certainly seems to be a reluctance to acknowledge any problems that exist at this point, or acknowledge responsibility for contributing to the problems that exist up until this point," Williams said.

"If, however, this is just sort of a face-saving move, saying we're just going to continue as before, when in fact there is a change in direction that the things are conducted in a different way going forward, I suppose there's a chance that this is more rhetoric."

Williams suggests a report of this magnitude shows troubling problems for residents, who entrust their leaders to solve issues that arise.

"There is a sort of a tone that somehow or another, the people that were involved in the investigation were biased," Williams said.

"Sort of snide remarks made about the previous municipal affairs minister, and this is not conducive to finding a solution to the problems that had been raised here."

Council remains under an official administrator until at least the end of the year.

In part, Schulz's directives require the City of Chestermere to:

  • Hire an auditing firm to submit outstanding financial statements for the previous two years;
  • Review its procedural bylaws and provide an action plan; and
  • Submit to the province all code-of-conduct complaints and discontinue exercising power struggles on council.

Colvin says the city is working to secure an auditing firm to conduct financial audits of the city's expenses for 2021 and 2022.

This comes after KPMG pulled the plug on a 2021 audit, with the city claiming it had been completed and the firm saying it was not signed off on.

CTV News contacted Colvin for further comment but has not received a response.

Monday afternoon, Schulz's office released the following statement:

"We are aware of the video about the Chestermere municipal inspection that has been posted on the City of Chestermere's Facebook page. As the minister noted during the March 15 public information session, the inspection report was conducted fairly and appropriately, and according to all legislative requirements," said Alex Puddifant, chief of staff.

"The 12 directives from the minister are based on and supported by the findings of the inspection report. They have clear deliverables and timelines with which Chestermere council and administration must comply. The inspection report and supporting materials, including a recording of the March 15 information session, are posted on alberta.ca/chestermere."

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