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At Morinville Council: Isbister signs off

Town council debates a new code of conduct bylaw, and CAO Isbister reveals top-secret candy horde.

Code of conduct beefed up

Town council will be able to order members to take training under the terms of a proposed code of conduct law.

Council passed first reading of the proposed Morinville code of conduct bylaw last week.

While council has long had a code of conduct policy, recent changes to the Municipal Government Act require communities to embed those codes into laws that cover specific topics, explained outgoing town chief administrative officer Andy Isbister.

The draft law is based on a template published by the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association and is considerably more detailed than the current code of conduct policy.

The law, if passed, would require councillors to serve the welfare and interest of the municipality as a whole and to conduct themselves at all times in a way that bolsters public confidence. It also requires councillors to treat each other and the public with courtesy, dignity, and respect, and asks them to bear in mind that they are always representing the town, “including when engaging in social media activities.”

The draft law requires all councillors to take orientation training within 90 days of taking office as well as all other training sessions organized at council’s direction. Isbister noted that this was a step up from the provincial requirement to simply offer orientation training. Council would have to pass a motion to make a training session mandatory or allow a councillor to miss such a session.

The draft also creates a formal complaint process that includes potential punishments, such as pay cuts or suspension from committees.

The draft law returns for second reading this March 27.

Isbister signs off

Morinville’s CAO says he plans to leave his successor with some free candy as he wraps up his government career this month.

The Gazette asked Isbister to reflect on his time with Morinville this week as he prepared to retire after eight years with the town.

Isbister, 65, said he’d had a long career in school administration when he first retired in June 2009. Feeling like he still had work left in him but wanting a lighter workload than the one he had as treasurer for Edmonton Catholic Schools (which had a $275 million budget), he signed up to be Morinville’s chief financial officer that December.

Isbister said it was easy to slide into his new job, as he already knew a lot of town residents through his wife’s family (he lives in Fort Saskatchewan). He stayed on as the town’s CFO until 2016, when he stepped up to replace CAO Debbie Oyarzun.

Isbister served under five mayors and helped town council build the community cultural centre, rebuild St. Germain Place, and begin a regional recreation centre – the latter of which he said he’s relieved to finally see happen.

“We’ve been talking about this for about four or five years. To actually see a building come out of the ground is a pretty good feeling.”

When he steps down on March 29, Isbister will be the first Morinville CAO to retire from the position since Angie Gibeault, who retired in 1996, said town information management officer Lois Rusk. (Everyone else since has either quit or been fired.)

Isbister said he plans to spend his last week on the job working with his successor, Stephane Labonne, who starts work March 21.

“He’s well experienced, and he’s going to be a great addition to the town, probably better than me.”

When asked if he had any tips or secret candy stashes to pass onto Labonne, Isbister said that he actually did have such a stash, and he planned to restock it before he left.

“There is a drawer in my office that normally has the little chocolate bars that we hand out at Halloween,” he said, and they’re free for the taking. He established the candy cache to give staffers an excuse to come talk to him – even if he ended up being its most frequent user.

Isbister said he was probably retiring for good this time, and planned to enjoy life.

In an email, Mayor Barry Turner praised Isbister’s work with the town, crediting his financial acumen with making the regional rec-centre possible.

“His straightforward, no-nonsense methods of tackling all issues has been of tremendous service to Morinville over the years,” he said, and he will be missed by council, staff, and many residents.

“I wish him well in his retirement. He has earned it.”

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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