Gibbons Mayor Doug Horner says that he is disappointed but not surprised his powers have been limited for at least six months by town council over allegations his short temper and unprofessional behaviour make him unfit for the position.
"We have five new council members so that comes with several challenges that we're not coping with very well, I guess,” Horner told CBC News Tuesday evening.
At their meeting on July 23, the six other members of town council unanimously passed a series of motions that left Horner with the ceremonial title of mayor, but significantly decreased the scope and power of his role.
For at least the next six months, Horner will not be permitted to call special council meetings, sign bylaws or other legal documents on behalf of the town, or act as a spokesman for Gibbons or its council. He will, however, remain a voting member of council.
Town councillors say it was a last resort decision, when all other attempts to work with Horner failed, and was only considered after council members received legal guidance.
Citing Horner’s short temper, alleged bullying and threatening nature, and involvement in physical and verbal altercations at a local pub, colleagues say the mayor’s behaviour has been inappropriate.
In a news release sent Tuesday, the town councillors allege Horner was verbally abusive to Gibbons’ chief administrative officer Farrell O'Malley during a conversation about snow removal last November.
“I stood there and kept taking it and he kept pushing into my face and into my space at a loud voice – and when I'm talking loud, I'm talking ballistic,” recalled O’Malley.
Other colleagues have criticized Horner’s failure to communicate openly with council members about his actions and decisions.
“Having the mayor attend meetings and such without us knowing who he's talking to or what he's saying has really limited the rest of us in how we can deal with issues that come up,” said Coun. Darren McCann.
Councillors believe that Horner’s inappropriate behaviour is hurting the council and town it represents.
But Horner said that he was merely pointing out things that could improved and says he did nothing wrong.
"I think that comes with greenhorns on council,” he said. “I mean since when does the mayor have to check in with council before he goes to a meeting? I've never heard of that before."
Horner says he is unaware of sanctions
According to the council news release, Horner has "made it abundantly clear that he [is] not prepared to accept responsibility for his actions nor is he capable of realigning his behaviours with that is expected of an elected official."
“Instead of doing what he thinks is best for the town, I think he's just putting a black mark on it,” said Coun. Jean Woodger.
None of these allegations have been proven.
At the time of the conversation, Horner said he had not seen the release made by the town council and was not aware of the sanctions in place.
He said he left the July 23 meeting before council voted on the motions.
Asked about the vote’s outcome, Horner said he was “disappointed” the council would start a motion against him.
“It’s detracting from the real issues we should be working on as a council,” he said, adding that a mediation process had been planned to start three weeks from now.
Horner is due back in his office next week. He told CBC News he will review the sanctions on his return.
Gibbons is about 40 kilometres northeast of Edmonton.