The Village of Fort Simpson will be tasked with filling a secound council seat after Coun. Kirby Groat announced his resignation earlier this week.
Groat read his resignation letter into the minutes of village council’s regular meeting on May 21.
The resignation came during the same meeting that Randal Sibbeston was appointed as a replacement councillor for Michael Rowe, who resigned last month.
“This letter is to inform you that I am resigning (from) my position as village councilor effective today,” Groat read aloud, citing the NWT Accountability Framework for Community Government which he doesn’t believe council has been following. He noted that he thinks council is failing to address good governance, comprehensive planning, financial management and administration and striving to ensure a safe and healthy community.
“It is my opinion that this council has not upheld these principles and this has led to my decision,” he added.
The resignation can be read at the 10-minute mark of the May 19 regular council meeting.
Mayor Sean Whelly said after the meeting that the letter is a bit vague and that he doesn’t agree with Groat’s criticisms that Fort Simpson council has lacked transparency. Whelly said village council introduced live webstreaming of its meetings this last term and council is careful when going in-camera.
“I think this council has actually been very transparent,” Whelly said. “The only time we do go in-camera is when it’s a legislative requirement under the Cities, Towns and Villages Act, and it’s always to do with legal, contractual HR issues, or a land purchase issue.”
Whelly said Groat had an issue with an in-camera meeting that immediately preceded his resignation and that it had to do with a contract payment at the village. Whelly said a few of Groat’s criticisms had some merit and that some of the information did spill into the opening meeting as the issue dealt with the village paying for a portion of tenant alterations to the new office complex building being constructed by Nogha Enterprises Ltd — the operational arm of the Lı́ı́dlı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́ Fırst Natıon.
Groat had been reprimanded by council in April following a tense exchange with senior administrative officer Darrell White over a bylaw enforcement truck that was being serviced.
Whelly said Sibbeston was appointed because he was one of two candidates in the 2018 municipal election who was not elected to the eight-person council. As he was next down the list with 199 votes, he was asked to join.
Now the Groat has vacated his seat, council will have decide whether to continue down that list to former candidate Adolphus Augier, who was selected on 150 ballots in 2018.
“It’ll be exactly the same as far as the decision making (on how council responds),” Whelly said, stating that council only has the options of holding a byelection or appointing the next person down the list.
Because there remains more than a year left until the next municipal election, leaving the seat vacant isn’t an option under territorial legislation, Whelly said. With the Covid-19 pandemic still a concern, it’s also unlikely a byelection would be held because it would encourage people to gather in public areas to vote.
Groat didn’t respond to a request for comment prior to deadline for this story.