No more discussion, council says

There will be no more talk at Grand Forks city council meetings about Julia Butler’s court case.

There will be no more talk at Grand Forks city council meetings about Julia Butler’s court case, in which the Supreme Court judge dismissed the petition to have her disqualified from council.

After Butler commented in her latest written report to council about the recent court case, all the other council members (excluding Neil Krog, who was absent) spoke up at the regular council meeting on April 11 admonishing Butler. Mayor Frank Konrad then put forward a motion stating that council was not to speak of the issue any further. The motion passed with only Butler opposing.

In her report, Butler stated that she and the public had pleaded with council to discontinue “what the mayor originally called a ‘witch hunt.’”

“Did council consider the emotional turmoil this threat was putting my family through?” Butler wrote in her report. “If they had to pay the costs out of their own pocket rather than the pocket of the taxpayer, would they have proceeded so brazenly with such a weak case? They said they were only protecting the city. Protecting it from citizens bringing a lawsuit by bringing a lawsuit of their own? The logic of that escapes me.”

Butler then said that they are now challenged with moving forward together after “almost a year of intimidation and false accusations.”

“Directly following the judge’s decision the city issued a blatantly misleading press release stating that I had been found in conflict without stating the judge’s final ruling,” she wrote. “I had genuinely hoped that we could have closure on the matter and start to come together.”

Butler concluded by stating, “Although I have been warned I may be banned from in-camera meetings for writing hard-hitting reports, I feel it is my responsibility to the people to be transparent, straight-forward and offer solutions.”

Councillor Christine Thompson spoke at council during discussion of Butler’s report stating that Butler was told by the city lawyers that she was in direct pecuniary conflict of interest. “Prior to council making the decision to proceed with taking the issue forward for judicial review, council pleaded with Councillor Butler not to make us do this,” said Thompson. “Councillor Butler could have made the same decision as the mayor did [to recuse himself ] thus saving the taxpayers several thousands of dollars in legal fees. But she chose not to. I believe then and I believe now that it was Councillor Butler’s choice to proceed and have this matter taken before the Supreme Court.”

Thompson added that although Butler makes herself out to be the victim in her report, “In reality her actions have cost the taxpayers of the city to be victimized. Her public haranguing of management, negative comments being quoted in the Gazette, and critical interviews on CBC’s Daybreak South have created a poisoned workplace environment that no one should be subjected to.

“I called her out at the March 29 meeting stating that this behaviour needs to stop. Yet here we go again with a two-page report belittling not only our management but council and citizens as well.”

Councillor Chris Hammett added that it was a very damning report. “Council did not willingly or happily make the decision to take Butler to court. In fact council begged her numerous times not to make us do this,” said Hammett. “She refused to work with us as a team and said she would continue to fight for the things she had campaigned for in her election even though the charter reads that once a decision is made, councillors don’t have to agree with it but must work together for the betterment of the community.”

Hammett said that Butler laments that council can’t move forward collegially, yet approximately six weeks ago after receiving the judges decision “council was urged by our lawyers to file an appeal due to errors in the ruling,” she said. “Even though the cost to the city could’ve been minimal or nil, council voted at an in-camera meeting not to proceed. We advised Councillor Butler of our decision and said that we wanted to move forward. In spite of that she continues to raise the ire of council and staff with her negative, misleading comments to the media and in her reports.”

Hammett added that Butler may be proud of herself for “dodging a bullet” with the court but she should not be proud of her “ongoing toxic behaviour and comtempt for City Hall.”

Councillor Colleen Ross said council was headed in a “downward spiral” if they kept going back and forth with Butler over the issue. “I feel by allowing more rebuttals its continuing to empower this argument and this particular councillor and disempower the rest of council,” she said. “We as a council, and it’s in the court documents, we begged our colleague Councillor Butler not to force us to do this. Please just do what the corporate lawyers have asked you to do, which is to recuse yourself and Mayor Konrad has done…we asked her to work with us as a council in harmony, which is what we enjoy and we do it once in awhile and she refused. It was her choice to do this. She made us do this. We asked her not to make us do this. We were just following the advice of the corporate lawyer.”

Mayor Frank Konrad said that he was saddened that the topic was still being discussed after the court case had concluded. “To put it very bluntly—I thought we were done with this,” said Konrad. “It’s a saddening time that we have so many positive issues that this corporation can move forward with [yet] we are constantly being handcuffed to an issue that was done and over but apparently it’s not and that saddens me.”

Konrad then put forward a motion to not discuss the Butler court case any further “so that hopefully we can move forward with the corporation’s business for the betterment of our taxpayers, which are paying taxes to us to be regurgitating a subject that is done and over.”

The motion was carried 5-1 with only Butler opposing.

Grand Forks Gazette

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