Councillor Krista Balsom’s short time on council could be coming to an end.
Wood Buffalo council passed a motion on Tuesday to have her resign by 4:30 p.m. June 28 – stemming from an investigation that found her in a conflict of interest. If she doesn’t resign, administration would look to take the matter to the court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta.
The motion passed 6-3 with Councillors Mike Allen, Jeff Peddle, and Bruce Inglis against. Councillor Jane Stroud wasn’t at the meeting as she continues her campaign for the Fort McMurray-Conklin byelection.
Councillor Verna Murphy says the final decision should be made by Balsom herself or go through the court system.
“It was no disrespect personally, we all know all the work she does in the community but for the integrity of council and transparency and for the residents to have full knowledge, I thought that the best thing to do is to send it to court.”
On March 21, 2018, the municipality’s third-party service provider received a whistleblower complaint alleging that Balsom had connections with different groups she was voting on during the budget process.
The investigation found that her company Balsom Communications has relationships with several groups – FuseSocial, Wood Buffalo Housing and Development Corporation, Arts Council of Wood Buffalo, Fort McMurray Tourism, the Wood Buffalo Regional Library, Fort McMurray Heritage Society, the Regional Recreation Corporation, and the RMWB.
Specifically, with FuseSocial, she made an amending motion to add $150,000 to their ask.
In an email sent out on Friday, Balsom claims she was misinformed by the municipality’s legal counsel.
Despite this, Mayor Don Scott says they need to restore the public’s faith in council and by asking Balsom to resign.
“People who run, they hold a position of trust and we need to make sure that the public has confidence in those who are elected and I believe the ultimate decision made sense.”
Scott notes he never talked to Balsom about a potential conflict, however, reports show that CAO Annette Antoniak did have at least one conversation.
Meanwhile, Councillor Allen originally brought forward a motion which would have imposed three sanctions on Balsom, allowing her to stay on council. This included a letter of apology, more training on identifying conflicts of interests, and keeping her from being the deputy or acting mayor for two years.
Allen believed these punishments ‘fit the crime.’
However, some delegates who spoke were against this.
Resident J. Paul McLeod says going through the courts is the best course or action as sanctions would be a ‘slap on the wrist’.
Balsom was asked to comment after the meeting but didn’t want to at this time.