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Election must be called after mass resignations of Reford council

Complaints were aired in a newsletter called RefordGate Gazette.
A meeting of the RM of Reford No. 379 June 8 ended early.

WILKIE — After a mass resignation at a recent RM of Reford meeting, the Ministry of Government Relations is looking at appointing enough people to meet a quorum to serve until an election can be held.

After an in-camera session dealing with harassment claims and human resource issues, the regular meeting of council for the RM June 8 in their Wilkie office ended early when almost everyone resigned, including two staff.

The meeting followed two months of the distribution of a newsletter, edited by an unknown person, called the RefordGate Gazette, which, naming names, called out council members’ alleged actions, as well as staff, on issues described as “horse trading” and “monkey business.”

According to the Ministry of Government Relations, when a municipality experiences a loss of quorum due to resignations, section 14 of The Local Government Election Act, 2015 and section 97 of The Municipalities Act authorizes the minister to issue an order to appoint one or more persons to act as members of council and hold office until the vacancies are filled at an election. The Minister’s Order will also fix the date for an election to fill the vacancies.

In response to a request from Press-Herald, the ministry said in an email, “As this loss of quorum happened very recently, identifying potential appointees and a date for an election is currently being determined.”

The email continued, “Once the Minister has made a decision to resolve this municipality’s loss of quorum, an order will be issued to the municipality with the applicable details.”

Regarding the resignation of two staff members, the ministry said, “Resignations of the employees are handled by the employer, the municipality. Once the loss of quorum has been resolved, the council will be able to fill the administrative vacancies at its discretion as the employer.”

As earlier reporting on, indicated, the June 8 meeting of the RM of Reford No. 379 ended dramatically when Reeve Gerald Gerlinsky tendered his resignation, effective immediately. That resignation was quickly followed by councillor Evan Johnson resigning. Quentin Sittler tendered the resignation of Nathan Keller, who was absent, and then also resigned himself.

Acting administrator Curt Kowalchuk  asked if anyone else was resigning, and Deputy Reeve Greg Sutherland asked for a minute to write out his resignation, did so and left the council chambers, as had all others who resigned.

With only Lyle Ulsifer and Daryl Glackin remaining, quorum was lost and the majority of the items on the meeting agenda were not dealt with.

To compound the issues of governance of the rural municipality, an earlier in-camera session saw resignations tendered by Kowalchuk and by assistant administrator Wanda Laturnus, both effective June 29. A motion was passed by council to accept those resignations prior to the reeve’s resignation.

Gerlinsky referred to the resignations of the office staff before tendering his own, saying he didn’t want to put in the time to find new staff.

That there was some dissension in the room was evident from the start of the meeting as Ulsifer made a motion to remove Gerlinsky as chair. That motion was defeated.

The minutes of the previous meeting were accepted, following which council went in-camera, six minutes after the meeting started, to deal with a number of harassment complaints and some other human resource issues. It was following the in-camera session, after passing some regular motions arising from that session such as the hiring of a new grader operator, that the wave of resignations began.

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