A Code of Conduct complaint was received by City Council in June 2023, resulting in an internal investigation. The investigation concluded that Councillor Cindy Jefferies breached Section 7.1 of City Council’s Code of Conduct Bylaw. All other alleged breaches set out in the complaint were determined to be unfounded.
The formal Code of Conduct complaint submitted by a member of the public made allegations of breach of City Council’s Code of Conduct bylaw, specifically in the areas of:
- Section 4.1 (d): arrange their private affairs and conduct themselves in a manner that promotes public confidence.
- Section 4.1 (a): Members shall act honestly and, in good faith, serve the welfare and interests of the Municipality as a whole.
- Section 5.4: No Member shall make a statement when they know that statement is false.
- Section 5.5: No Member shall make a statement with the intent to mislead Council or members of the public.
- Section 7.1: Members shall uphold the law established by the Parliament of Canada and the Legislature of Alberta and the bylaws, policies and procedures adopted by Council.
- Section 10.1: Members have a statutory duty to comply with the pecuniary interest provisions set out in Part 5, Division 6 of the Act and a corresponding duty to vote unless required or permitted to abstain under the Act or another enactment.
Shortly after the complaint was received by Mayor Johnston, a review committee comprised of the Mayor, Councillor Buruma and Councillor Barnstable reviewed the complaint and recommended, due to the limited scope and complexity of the complaint that Council investigate. The investigation took place during a closed Special Meeting of Council held on July 18, 2023, with all of Council present except for Councillor Jefferies who recused herself from these proceedings and Councillor Barnstable who was absent.
The allegations put forward by the complainant and associated investigative findings include:
|Councillor Jefferies accepted corporate donations for her campaign during the 2021 election, breaching Section 7.1.||
Councillor Jefferies breached Section 7.1 of the Bylaw by accepting two corporate donations during her municipal election campaign, in violation of section 147.2(1) of the Local Authorities Election Act.
The Investigation Report discloses that a full investigation into the donations was previously conducted by Elections Alberta. In January 2023, the Chief Electoral Officer concluded that Jefferies had contravened the Act, but that no penalty or reprimand would be imposed, as doing so, in this case would not serve the public interest for a number of reasons.
In their Investigation Report, Council states that because the matter was adjudicated by the appropriate provincial body no further actions or sanctions would be required by Council in relation to the same donations.
Founded - breach of Section 7.1
|Councillor Jefferies knowingly posted false or misleading information about the donations on Facebook, breaching Section 5.4 and Section 5.5.||This allegation was determined to be unfounded. Council was not satisfied there was evidence to show that Jefferies knowingly made statements she knew to be false or misleading.||Unfounded - no breach of Section 5.4 or Section 5.5.|
|As a past member of Safe Harbour Society Board of Directors, Councillor Jefferies should not have been involved in shelter conversations at Council table, breaching Section 4.1 (a), Section 4.1 (d) and Section 10.1.||All allegations related to Safe Harbour board membership were determined to be unfounded. Councillor Jefferies resigned from her position as soon as she was elected, she was never employed by Safe Harbour, nor did she or her family receive any monetary benefit from her board role. Councillors are not required to disclose past or current community service positions, nor did Jefferies past involvement on the board bias her decisions as a Councillor.||Unfounded - no breach of Section 4.1(b), Section 4.1(d) or Section 10.1.|
Having accepted that Councillor Jefferies contravened Section 7.1 of City Council’s Code of Conduct Bylaw by accepting corporate funds for her campaign, Council determined no sanctions were in order given the matter had already been fully addressed by Elections Alberta.
“Moving forward, we want to make a point of cautioning all candidates, past and future, to make sure they understand all municipal, provincial and federal laws when it comes to campaigns, and being an elected member of our Council,” said Mayor Ken Johnston. “City Council implemented the Code of Conduct Bylaw in 2019 to ensure good governance that is in the best interest of the organization and our community. Through our Code of Conduct Bylaw, expectations are outlined for how we conduct ourselves as we carry out our duties and responsibilities.”
This is the first time since the Code of Conduct Bylaw was adopted that City Council has appointed itself to investigate a complaint, which is allowed under the bylaw. Since the investigation was conducted internally, there were no costs associated with this complaint.
For more information on this Code of Conduct investigation, and for general information about the bylaw, please visit reddeer.ca/CouncilConduct. The Investigation Report will be posted to the website later this week once FOIP redactions have been made.