A University of Saskatchewan professor says the province must find a better way to deal with serious allegations of misconduct levelled against municipal governments.
Such a situation currently faces the Town of La Ronge after former administrator Stephen Conway accused council of racism, homophobia and corruption.
The provincial government does have the power to dissolve a municipal council and appoint an acting administrator if it feels such action is warranted.
However, Joe Garcea, who teaches in the Department of Political Studies at the U of S, says what is really needed is a quasi-judicial tribunal to investigate such matters before things really get out of control.
“Given what the situation is, I think it’s needed,” he says. “Otherwise, increasingly, the provincial government, itself, is going to find that it has to deal with these kinds of matters or a lot of these matters will end up in court.”
Garcea says serious accusations of misconduct at the municipal level are becoming more and more common.
For his part, Minister for Government Relations Warren Kaeding confirms the province has received a letter from Conway outlining the allegations but refuses to say much more beyond this.
“Providing guidance through our municipal sector folks to what options individuals may have when it comes to concerns, issues around council activities or members they may feel are out of compliance,” he says. “So, we’ve provided that kind of information to anybody in La Ronge that may want to get some follow up there.”
In the weeks that have followed since Conway released his letter in mid-September, council has remained largely silent on the allegations other than a statement issued by acting administrator Robbie Bender on Sept. 20 on what are referred to as “sensational allegations” that will be responded to when “more clear and direct information is available to the Town.”
However, Garcea says La Ronge would be wise to take a different tact than largely avoiding the issue.
He says Conway’s allegations are serious and council needs to show the public it takes them seriously.
“The council, for its own sake, and for the electors sake and in the provincial interest, they should really say we’re ready, willing and able to cooperate with any amount of commission of inquiry established by the provincial government.”
Conway also sent a copy of his letter to the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission.
(PHOTO: Town of La Ronge sign. Photo courtesy of Town La Ronge Parks and Recreation Facebook page.)