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City of Red Deer

Latest City Council Code of Conduct complaint finds Councillor Cindy Jefferies accepted two corporate donations

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Code of Conduct investigation complete, breach found

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:

Allegation: Investigation Findings: Result:
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. Councilors 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 www.reddeer.ca/CouncilConduct. The Investigation Report will be posted to the website later this week once FOIP redactions have been made.

City of Red Deer

City introduces new phone number to report non-emergency mental health, addiction, or homeless issues

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New streamlined way to reach Red Deer’s Social Diversion Team

Since launching in 2021, the Social Diversion Team (SDT) has been responding to calls throughout Red Deer for individuals in need of non-emergency support, whether experiencing mental health struggles, addictions issues, or homelessness.

Beginning March 1, 2024, the community will need to call the non-emergency police line at 403-406-2200 to connect with the Social Diversion Team. This move from the previous 2-1-1 call line will improve the caller’s ability to quickly connect with a Police Communications Operator who can quickly determine the nature of the call and dispatch the appropriate resources in a timely and efficient manner.

“This change simplifies calling and dispatching the Social Diversion Team,” said Peter Puszka, Municipal Policing Services Superintendent. “Red Deerians now need to remember only one contact number for all non-emergency community safety concerns and our experienced, well-trained Police Communications Operators can assess the circumstances of the call, determine which resource is appropriate and dispatch accordingly.”

Though the Alberta 2-1-1 has been the dispatching service since the onset of the program, the move to internal dispatching will simplify the call-in process, removing barriers like pre-recorded messaging and on-hold wait times, improve internal communication between the dispatchers and the responding Social Diversion Team, and allow for operators with local community knowledge to provide enhanced response.

While the phone number has changed, all other elements of the program remain the same. The two-person Social Diversion Team consists of a Licensed Practical Nurse and a Social Diversion Specialist, who respond to reports of individuals in distress. The team connects clients with the social services they need, such as housing supports, mental health supports, detox programs and harm reduction resources.

“We are excited to continue providing individuals with the right response at the right time,” says Ryan Veldkamp, Social Wellness & Integration Supports Superintendent. “We know that not every call is an emergency call, and that’s why the Social Diversion Team is the right choice for these situations where individuals are in crisis. The team continues to allow our first responders to concentrate on responding to critical medical emergencies and criminal matters.”

In its three years of operation, the SDT has averaged a response rate of 185 events per month or approximately 6 calls a day. The teams use their specialized training to provide assessment, intervention and support to those in need.

Stephanie MacDonald, Outreach and Housing Services Manager for Safe Harbour Society said, “The Social Diversion Team is very excited for this change over and believes that this will allow for a more effective and timely response.”

While the SDT continues to operate from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., 7 days a week, the 24/7 non-

emergency line will dispatch the SDT based on their availability, or utilize other policing and medical services when they are not.

To learn more about the Social Diversion Team, visit www.reddeer.ca/SDT.

When Should I call the Social Diversion Team?

If you see someone who is:

  • Experiencing a mental health or medical (non-emergency) crisis
  • Intoxicated or otherwise impaired
  • Requiring transport to appropriate services (i.e. a shelter)
  • Sleeping in an unsafe space and/or inappropriately dressed for the weather
  • Requiring social services (i.e. housing, nutrition, health or community supports)
  • Likely to come to harm without intervention

And the individual is not posing an immediate harm to themselves or others, call 403-406-2200

The team’s hours of operation are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. However, the non-emergency (403-406-2200) line is operated 24/7. Outside of the Social Diversion team operating hours, callers will be provided with either a community referral, crisis intervention support, connected to 911, or offered a follow-up.

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Addictions

City Council decides to close Red Deer’s Overdose Prevention Site

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City Council requests the Province of Alberta make changes to OPS in Red Deer

City Council made decisions (Friday) related to Red Deer’s Overdose Prevention Site (OPS), requesting the Government of Alberta (GOA):

  • formalize an orderly transition of the existing OPS out of Red Deer by the end of 2025;
  • provide in its place greater harm reducing options within our community that focus on health, wellness, and recovery, including more detox capacity, medication-assisted treatment (MAT), recovery coaches, counsellors, and culturally appropriate health and wellness supports, etc.;
  • provide dedicated grant funding to provide a continuous police presence/enforcement in the immediate vicinity of the OPS and temporary shelter, until the crime and social disorder impacts associated with these provincial services are better mitigated for the safety and security of our public;
  • substantially increase front-line supports for mental health and addictions within our community/region to better address the root causes leading to drug and alcohol addictions.

These decisions stem from a Notice of Motion put forward by Councillor Higham on December 18, 2023. After being read into the record on January 22, 2024, a non-statutory public hearing was scheduled for yesterday, February 15, 2024. Approximately 40 members of the public attended the non-statutory public hearing, with approximately 30 individuals speaking to the Notice of Motion, sharing their thoughts on the issue.

After hearing from the public yesterday, City Council debated the motion today, with Mayor Ken Johnston now having City Council direction to take the issue forward to the province and proceed with advocacy efforts.

“The public hearing and the debate of this motion were harrowing and emotional experiences for everyone. Each of us have been touched in some way by addiction; we heard that very clearly, and I am no exception. We heard heartfelt testimony from many members of our community, citizens, some who use the OPS, some who are service providers in the community, business owners, doctors, family members that have lost loves ones, and more,” said Mayor Johnston. “Council approached this most sensitive of issues with open minds, open ears, and open hearts. We are trying to improve lives for those suffering from addiction. This is a complex challenge, as these are areas where municipalities do not have jurisdiction. What we know is that Red Deer needs robust support from the provincial government for people with addictions; we need support for our community that is grappling with the fallout of addictions; and we need that support in the most immediate way.”

Mayor Johnston added, “Following this meeting, I will reach out to the Ministry of Addictions and Mental Health to book meetings where we can discuss how to move forward in the best interest of our city.”

Currently the OPS is located 5246 53 Avenue in downtown Red Deer.

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