ARICHAT: The warden has agreed to meet with two residents to discuss their concerns with a councillor.
Before council held an in-camera session to discuss a legal matter involving municipal personnel at tonight’s committee-of-the-whole meeting in Arichat, residents Gina Stanley and Ellen Polegato took advantage of the 15-minute question period.
Just as Polegato was expressing her concerns with council’s inability to respond to her queries about “questionable expense claims,” Richmond Warden Brian Marchand interrupted her.
“Okay, hold it. Hold it. That’s not on the agenda,” Marchand interjected.
Polegato responded that she wasn’t talking about the expense claims specifically, but having the issue addressed, noting that she wrote council with no response.
Marchand responded that her question did not relate to any item on the agenda.
“It’s not on the agenda,” Marchand fired back. “You push the word protocol, it’s a word you pushed back many times.”
Polegato asked what redress is available to residents unable to get answers from their elected officials.
“If a resident is making correspondence with council and council does not… reply or acknowledge that concern that the resident has, what is the path that they should be taking,” she asked?
Noting that he allowed Polegato to continue her questions “just for information,” the warden responded that there have been “some replies” to her e-mails, including from councillor Jason MacLean and interim Chief Administrative Don Marchand who said “that there was no discussion to be had.”
Polegato noted she received no replies from other councillors, as well as “the councillor that’s in question.”
“The only method for you is the individual councillors, or municipal affairs is next,” Marchand stated. “That’s something you have to decide.”
“Does council not deal with council issues, not municipal affairs,” Stanley asked? “So we’re just wondering why we have no reply from the warden of the county?”
Noting that her inquiries have gone unanswered for five weeks, Polegato pointed to council’s new code of conduct.
“So you’re directing us to municipal affairs when I know that you have stated that municipal affairs won’t intervene in situations where council polices themselves,” she said. “So this would be an issue where council should be policing themselves.”
Pointing out that they are speaking about public information, Polegato said she prefers to have council, and not the media, deal with her concerns over expense claims and “potential conflicts of interest.”
After Polegato responded that she shouldn’t have to seek legal advice to get her questions answered, Marchand pointed out that it could cost money to investigate her claims against the unnamed councillor.
“We were chastised, in the last month or two, for spending so much money on legal and now you’re asking us to do this,” Marchand asked? “If you think these are questionable, you should come to us with proof that they are.”
In response to Polegato’s claim that council “is not willing to engage” on the issue, Marchand responded that he is willing to sit down and go over their concerns.
Marchand offered to record their conversation so there will be a record and he promised to e-mail Stanley and Polegato with a date and time for their meeting.