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Galloway and Minish - Municipality of Swan Valley West Jan. 9


The following is an unabridged, only slightly polished transcript of a discussion near the end of a Municipality of Swan Valley West meeting held on Jan. 9. It occured during Reeve Bill Galloway's verbal report. At the bottom of the page, an audio version of this conversation is also available. - JB

Reeve Bill Galloway (G): I’ve got something a little different tonight than what I normally do. I want to start by saying that no one should believe everything that they think. Just keep that in mind. Tonight, I’m going to speak for an employee that does not have a voice at this table.
Since my election last July, I’ve tried to be very fair with all councillors, treat them all the same, try not to humiliate anyone or talk (about) personal stuff in open session. Tonight, that is going to change. And, the reason it’s changing is because this employee, although she was not named, there was no doubt in anybody’s mind who it was. So to offer the same consideration, I am not going to name who I am speaking about, and believe me, what I have to say tonight does in no way give me any pleasure at all. In fact, I am in really the opposite of a pleasurable mood.
The reason for it, is because a week ago on Sunday morning (Dec. 31), I got a call from a very upset employee who threatened to quit over comments that were made that were directed basically at here, even though she wasn’t named. (They were) calling her ability and her integrity into question. There was absolutely no basis in fact that she was not doing her job, not only to the best of her ability but to a very high standard and she should not have been cast in a bad light. And, it was actually the way it came up might have been innocent enough. A councillor ‘thought’, and that’s why I prefaced my remarks, don’t believe everything you think. He thought something was amiss, and that was said at an open meeting, and of course the reporter who had it recorded seized on the opportunity to speak to the councillor after the meeting. The councillor expanded, and without corroborating the thoughts of the councillor, it was printed in the paper, for all to see. A very, very humiliating situation for an individual who has no ability to strike down a load of BS. And, that’s really how fake news starts.
It was a nothing-burger, but yet it got put out there, people commented on it, people read it, she read it, she was upset. I don’t know why it was done. Perhaps the intended purpose was to get a name out there, because it’s happened a few times over the last month. But, hopefully this can be used as a teaching moment, where if you realize that words matter, then sometimes it is best to share those words in-camera, to get the whole story, rather than being out.
Because, we just supported a resolution at the last municipal convention against bullying, and this is basically a baby form of bullying, but it wasn’t very baby, at least according to how the employee felt, but its the beginnings of bullying or sexual harassment.
Councillor David Minish (M): You’re going somewhere you may not want to go Bill, because I’m going to speak to this when you’re done.
G: Okay. I didn’t interrupt you. I appreciate you not interrupting me.
M: I’m just saying I’m going to speak to this when you’re done and I apologize for the interruption. Letting you know.
G: Now, what I was going to conclude with was, I don’t believe that the individual meant any malice towards the person, because you would have to be something different than an elected official to mean malice against an employee.
So, I don’t believe there was malice meant. It might have been an entirely innocent mistake that got portrayed in a light that was not becoming to this individual, and she was terribly upset about it. As the head of council, I believe it is my job to ensure that that doesn’t happen again. And, the only reason as I said, that I did not bring it up in-camera, is because it was not brought up in-camera before. So, you can speak to it, I think if you would like some friendly advice, apologies are probably in order.
M: I’ll accept yours anytime.
G: You’ll accept mine?
M: I’ll accept yours anytime.
G: I wanted to think that you weren’t a bit narcissistic.
M: Here is the point on this. If you’re talking about the comment that I said I have lost confidence in our financial governance, I still have lost confidence in (the) financial governance of our municipality. As I’ve said, I don’t think that there is anybody who isn’t working as hard as they can and doing their very best job. But, since you want to bring this up, and I appreciate (you bringing this up) because I wouldn’t have this discussion if it was in-camera. And, you see, this kind of fireside chat that you want to put forward on this, you’ve done this several times with red herrings going ahead.
For example, we talked about the letter that went out without (proper) authorization, but it really didn’t need authorization, and then a resolution about a letter that didn’t go out. And you went on a couple of times about the content of the letter, and you always miss the point, and the point is that we are playing fast and loose with a lot of stuff and we don’t have a good governance system here. You accused me of being unprofessional.
G: That’s right. And that was done in private.
M: You know what, it should have been done in public, because I’d like to respond in public.
G: It was done in private.
M: But I would rather it be in public. Don’t try to spare my feelings because I wish a lot of this was in public. Here’s what’s unprofessional. A reeve sitting at the head of the table signing a resolution, whatever the resolution is for, it doesn’t matter whether it to enter us in a ridiculous contest, after the council has duly debated and passed it, however brief the debate. For a reeve to sign the resolution, knowing full well while he’s signing it that that resolution will not be acted upon. That is a reeve misleading council. It isn’t really a big deal on the issue that was being done, but it is exactly what happened.
I let these things slide. We decided that we are not going to have a finance clerk. And, everybody thinks we’re going to save some money on this. As I said, the need for financial governance is becoming more and more critical all the time. I see Minitonas-Bowsman is advertising for a new finance clerk, and we decided that we aren’t going to step into the job. Now, if you want to know what bullying is, its when you ask an office clerk -- who is an excellent office clerk, and I’ve told her that she is an excellent office clerk, I think she does a really good job and we are lucky to have her -- but when we are asking that person to step back into the role -- not the entire role, but part of it -- of finance clerk.
But, here’s what we didn’t do. We have not provided the opportunity for training nor have we provided the remuneration for this avid responsibility. We just expect someone to do that. That is bullying. And the real bullying is coming when the person being bullied doesn’t even know they are being bullied. They are just being taken advantage of. And when the union comes here and we have a meeting today with the union and talk about grievances, and you talk about when somebody is now being asked to do a job to step in and act as the finance clerk. And don’t tell me they’re not acting as finance clerk.
G: That’s right, she is.
M: She is, because I got the email that said right on it that said ‘finance clerk’. Did we offer her more money for these responsibilities? Will she be getting a raise?
G: She will be getting more money.
M: Is that raise coming before council? It hasn’t come before council yet.
G: Not yet.
M: Is it going to redefine the position? Are we going to offer her the training? Because, we administer a $4-5 million budget, depending on what is going on in the year with a major project, and those are things that we need to take very, very seriously.
G: And we do Dave. If you can point to one mis-step that she has…
M: It’s just the little thing that come along. As I said, I never thought that anything was wrong with it, I just was no longer sure that everything was right.
G: So now that is a classic play on words.
M: I used to have absolute confidence, but when I see that I’m being asked to see “where’s this cheque or where’s that cheque” “We don’t know for sure but it likely works out.” When I do my own personal finances on some of this stuff, there’s lots of times where I’ll go, “You know, this kind of looks right.” I wouldn’t do it any different if I didn’t know what I was doing and I go ahead and do it. For the ratepayers’ money, that’s not good enough.
G: I’m going to tell you one thing. The individuals that you thought were infallible, who are no longer here…
M: I never thought they were infallible.
G: You sound like it. You will find in-camera, immediately after this meeting goes into camera, that in fact, they were not infallible, on a number of issues. So no one is.
M: Absolutely. But Bill, we are going backwards.
G: No, we’re not going backwards.
M: We are going backwards in our governance, and we are playing fast and loose with some things that I think eventually…
G: If you point out the things that you think we are playing fast and loose with, I’ll listen to you Dave.
M: Why did the cheques go in five days early last time?
G: Because they were ready to go in, because you had already earned that money, and because they were put in. Now because of your outspokenness on it, you are going to find that from here forward, they are going to be put in the day after the meeting.
M: That’s the way it used to be.
G: And change sometimes happens.
M: Do you think that the ratepayers, the people who really pay our salaries, do you think that they are more comfortable with the cheques coming before council, especially our indemnities.
G: There is no difference between your cheque and another cheque. It’s dollars and cents, for money earned.
M: I’m a little taken aback that you don’t understand that there is a difference, but if you don’t understand, you don’t understand. I can’t help that. I explain it to you but I can’t understand it for you.
G: Oh, you are really smart Dave.
M: The indemnity cheques, I asked at one of the first meetings, for all the time that it takes that indemnity cheques be in a separate resolution, just because if there is anything wrong with an indemnity cheque, I’d hate for it to hold up the other employees’ other cheques or anything like that. For all the time it takes, and it would show good faith on some things. But, do you think… you made the point of saying “Well that’s something that you already earned.” I don’t disagree with that, but the point is, the ratepayers that are out there and the people that say “They all want this or they all want that”, do you think that the ratepayers are more comfortable with a councillor getting their paycheque after it has been approved by council or five days before. There is no business in the Swan River Valley that I know of, of any size, that would run payroll five days early.
And you know what, nobody was cheating anybody, nobody was trying to do anything wrong, there was no malice anywhere, and that’s the point I did make clear, nobody has malice. It’s just sloppy governance. And that’s how things start. Sloppy.
G: Well, you probably got the headline again. I think we can move on, if you’re done.
M: I’m done.
G: Excellent.

Jeremy Bergen