By Trevor Busch
A police commission bylaw amendment allowing town council to temporarily extend an existing member’s term limit ran into opposition at council’s mid-December meeting.
At the Taber Municipal Police Commission’s (TMPC) Nov. 20 meeting, the commission had voted unanimously to recommend council amend Police Commission Bylaw 2-2015 to permit temporary term extensions in extenuating circumstances, provided the extension is not in conflict with the Police Act.
On Dec. 16, council would vote unanimously to pass first and second reading of Taber Municipal Police Commission Amendment Bylaw 21-2019, but in order to proceed to third and final reading a separate motion requiring the unanimous consent of council must be passed.
When the vote was called for, Coun. Garth Bekkering opposed the motion (5-1), essentially defeating any attempt to approve the bylaw amendment at the same meeting.
During discussions prior to the vote, council interest centered on the need for the amendment and why it was being considered.
“Is there a problem recruiting citizen members to the Taber Municipal Police Commission?” asked Bekkering.
CAO Cory Armfelt deflected this inquiry, expressing a preference for deferring any explanation of the matter for council to closed session.
“I suppose we’ll find that out in closed session when council goes to designate who will be sitting on that board over the next year. There is a full complement of people that are interested, such that there’s a couple of vacancies coming up in due course with regards to the people that are on there, and we have sufficient people interested can sit on that board going forward if council wishes to appoint them this evening. From the strict black and white perspective, it doesn’t seem to be an issue. There’s two vacancies, and there’s two interested members to sit on that board.”
Coun. Louie Tams was also seeking an explanation of the reasoning behind the move on the part of the TMPC.
“I was going to ask the same question, and could we maybe defer this until after we’ve had that conversation about the members that have expressed an interest to sit on that committee?”
“Of course it’s up to council what you would like to do,” replied Armfelt. “This is on the agenda, so it should be dealt with here, or it could be tabled for a subsequent meeting. It would be somewhat strange, but you could certainly through a form of a motion address this after your closed session.”
Under Section 3.2.5 of Taber Municipal Police Commission Amendment Bylaw 21-2019, town council “may temporarily extend an appointment of an existing member of the commission for continued service if town council, in its sole discretion, determines that extra-ordinary conditions warrant such an extension of appointment.”
According to a definition included in the amendment bylaw, ‘temporarily extend’ refers to a “non-permanent time-limited appointment made by town council for the purposes of extending an existing member’s two-year term warranted by extra-ordinary conditions or to fill a vacant position.”
Sections 28(6), 28(7), and 28(8) of the Police Act refer to the term of office of a person appointed to a commission, and their eligibility for reappointment.
Citizen members of the commission currently serve three-year terms. Under Section 28(8) of the Police Act, “a member of a commission is eligible for reappointment if the reappointment does not result in more than 10 consecutive years of service by that member.”
“In making this motion, it’s always if we need to use it, I believe, so it’s not necessarily going to be used by the police commission to permit temporary extensions,” said Coun. Jack Brewin, who currently serves as one of two council representatives to the police commission.
Mayor Andrew Prokop asked if the phrase “extenuating circumstances” had been adequately defined in the amending bylaw.
“No, it’s not defined,” said Armfelt. “We’ve had that conversation before in light of the council organization file as well, where a councillor is allowed to call in during ‘extenuating circumstances.’ It’s certainly up to council to define what those extenuating circumstances are, as it has been facilitated in the past where a councillor can be on the phone. Case by case, council would have to evaluate each circumstance on its own merit and make that judgement.”
Item 9.2 in closed session at the Dec. 16 meeting involved board appointments to the TMPC. Coun. Joe Strojwas, who sits as the other council representative to the police commission, was absent from the meeting.