Listen Live
Listen Live
HomeNews'Unbecoming of an elected official': complaints claim mayor and councillor violated code...

‘Unbecoming of an elected official’: complaints claim mayor and councillor violated code of conduct bylaw

A Lethbridge political scientist has filed complaints against two members of city council, alleging they have violated council’s code of conduct bylaw. 

Dr. Yale Belanger, in a pair of letters shared with local media, said he believes Mayor Blaine Hyggen and Councillor John Middleton-Hope did not treat him with courtesy, dignity and respect after he spoke at a standing policy committee. 

The complaint against Middleton-Hope stems from the Feb. 22 Governance Standing Policy Committee, where Belanger said he was invited to present as a member of the public. He expressed concerns about the city’s procedure bylaw for boards, committees and commissions – asking council to reflect on its appointments to the Downtown Lawlessness Reduction Task Force. 

BACKGROUND: City solicitor to review lawlessness task force 

He pointed out two anticipated members also sit on the police commission and procedure bylaw 6250 says public members “… may serve on only one board, commission, or committee at a time, unless council determines that conditions warrant the appointment to more than one board, commission, or committee.” 

Middleton-Hope was quoted in an article published in the Lethbridge Herald, saying “it is frustrating that some pseudo intellectuals merely point fingers and assign blame but lack the experience and expertise of professionals dedicated to making this city a better place.” 

Belanger says he believes this comment violated the city’s council code of conduct bylaw and is “unbecoming of an elected official and not befitting of a person of authority or public trust.” 

The bylaw states “members shall treat one another, employees of the City and members of the public with courtesy, dignity and respect and without abuse, bullying or intimidation.” It also states “no Member shall use indecent, abusive, or insulting words or expressions toward another Member, any employees of the City or any member of the public.” 

Belanger also pointed to the section of the bylaw that states no member of council shall speak in a manner that is discriminatory to any individual referencing characterizations such as race, religious beliefs, colour, gender, physical or mental ability.  

“You did not treat a member of the public (me) with courtesy, dignity, and respect and without abuse, bullying, or intimidation. Nor did you refrain from using abusive or insulting words or expressions toward a member of the public (me). Finally, you spoke in a manner that was discriminatory to an individual (me), referencing characterizations such as mental ability,” Belanger wrote in his complaint letter to Middleton-Hope. 

The city provided a written statement responding to the complaints.  

“City Council is self-governing meaning under the current City Council Code of Conduct Bylaw, other members of Council would bring forward complaints. From the City bylaw perspective, a member of the public does not have the standing to make a complaint related to this bylaw. While we appreciate and respect community feedback, there is no legal obligation, unless these complaints are presented by another member of Council,” it said. 

Belanger’s complaint also calls out other “troubling behaviour” from Middleton-Hope, including an email where Belanger says he was criticized for his public statements and an incident at Belanger’s Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs talk in April 2023, which he called a “blatant attempt at intimidation.” 

Belanger said Middleton-Hope told him, in front of about 150 people at the event, he has been invited to speak at committee meetings by council to talk about solutions – but Belanger claimed he had no record of the invites. 

“Your request had nothing to do with my talk, and from my vantage point, you were trying to embarrass me,” Belanger said. “Your behaviour has escalated from unsolicited emails to dressing me down in public and acting childishly at public events to engaging in personal and professional attacks and insults.” 

As well as a public apology, Belanger requested Middleton-Hope refrain from any future unsolicited communication. 

“Any direct or indirect communications from this point will be judged harassment by a public official, and I will seek legal and/or other remedies,” he said. 

Belanger is seeking a public apology from the mayor for comments made after the meeting, also quoted in the Lethbridge Herald article. 

“Today it kind of comes to a pause because those that want to stop the good work that’s being done don’t want to be part of the solution but want to remain part of the problem by sitting behind a keyboard and complaining about the great work that’s being done by this committee. That’s the biggest frustration because it’s going to take forever to try to get anything done because of those who are creating roadblocks,” Hyggen told The Herald. 

“It’s already tough to find people to sit on committees and yet the ones that volunteer their times to sit on the committees get ridiculed by the ones that want to sit on their keyboards and complain. And we’re going to end up losing the good volunteers that we have because of that.” 

Belanger believes he was accused of creating roadblocks and [felt] he was blamed for the city’s lack of progress on social issues. 

“As an unelected official and a member of the public, I hold no position of power that would permit me to influence any decisions City Councillors may or may not make. It is, therefore, absurd to suggest that the City’s lack of progress (in any regard) is my fault or that I possess the authority to fashion roadblocks to that success,” Belanger wrote in his letter. “Yet, I have been publicly accused. This raises significant concerns regarding the dangers associated with politicians targeting public members. Instilling fear and intimidation can potentially jeopardize my safety and well-being and undermine the democratic process.” 

- Advertisement -
- Advertisment -
- Advertisment -
- Advertisement -

Continue Reading