Tensions high between Town of Ponoka mayor and councillor

A regular meeting of Ponoka town council took a drastic turn after one councillor walked out, swearing at the mayor as he left.

Town of Ponoka Mayor Rick Bonnett (left) and Coun. Tim Falkiner had a short

Town of Ponoka Mayor Rick Bonnett (left) and Coun. Tim Falkiner had a short

A regular meeting of Ponoka town council took a drastic turn after one councillor walked out, swearing at the mayor as he left.

The incident came about at the regular meeting of council Jan. 24 during council and mayor reports when Coun. Tim Falkiner reported that he had met with the town’s CAO over the town’s code of conduct bylaw.

After saying as much Mayor Rick Bonnett offered his congratulations stating he was glad to see Falkiner getting involved. The mayor’s comments appear to have been given sarcastically. As the discussion moved on Falkiner made his way to the exit and when the mayor asked why Falkiner said, “You want to act like an [expletive]. Yes I’m leaving.”

There were several people in the gallery to witness the incident, which highlights the disunity that appears to be a continuing issue with town council.

When asked for comment, Falkiner stated after a recent attempt to have him resign due to attendance compliance issues related to the Municipal Government Act, relations haven’t been well. He suggests the mayor goes out of his way to create conflict within the meeting.

Bonnett declined to comment on the incident except to say to look back at the last year of council minutes. Indeed, a look at minutes up to May shows Falkiner reporting almost exactly the same “nothing to report” except for June 28 where he said he attended a recreation meeting.

Councillor reports are a later agenda item where councillors and the mayor detail their duties and jobs they took on in recent weeks. For the majority of councillors, they will report on what took place.

Generally Falkiner states that he has nothing of significance to report.

“There’s nothing significant in attending and reporting some of this stuff,” said Falkiner.

He suggests the mayor will even ignore councillors during a meeting when they raise their hands. In response, Bonnett suggested Falkiner could hold his hands up for longer than a few seconds as he might miss the request.

Falkiner said he will continue to attend regular meetings and the mayor’s behaviour was supposed to be addressed in the second year of council’s term and he expected things to change. He added that he preferred to leave the meeting than to escalate the issue.

“If I could turn the clock back…he wouldn’t be the mayor, because I would take my vote back and I would’ve voted for Doug Gill,” said Falkiner.

Motion for mediation sits

Council had approved a motion, almost one year to the day (Jan. 26, 2016) to begin mediation and deal with the issues that councillors have been facing. At the time, council voted unanimously 6-0 to begin the process of mediation with Municipal Affairs. Coun. Falkiner was not in attendance of this meeting.

Since that motion was made there has been little forward movement towards unity or reconciliation. It is believed the cause is related directly to one or more councillors refusing to enter into negotiations. At the time, then interim CAO Doug Wright advised council that commitment was needed from all seven councillors for mediation to work.

 

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