It has been one week since St. Albert’s Mayor Nolan Crouse was judged, by the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, to have violated the Alberta Municipal Government’s Act pecuniary interest rules by not recusing himself from council’s deliberations concerning the expense claims audit motion and the defamation action funding limit motion.
The press conference which I called was well attended and resulted in some publication, but not the full story. My half hour long presentation to the press resulted in only approx. 1 minute of news reporting, per agency.
With the objective of clearing up any misconceptions about the news reports, I now release the full text of my presentation as follows:
“Hello everyone and thanks for coming today.
My name is Steve Stone and I am a resident of St. Albert and I brought forward the court action to have Mayor Nolan Crouse declared in breach of the pecuniary interest section of the MGA.
What I want to go over today in detail is …….. Why I brought this action forward, ………What issues were at play in this pecuniary interest case ……..what the judge ruled ………and why I think Mayor Crouse should do the honorable thing and admit he breached the pecuniary interest section of the MGA and step down as Mayor
I am an immigrant to Canada as I moved here from Trinidad & Tobago. Although Trinidad is a nice country … the fundamental difference is the accepted degree of corruption in that society. In Trinidad & Tobago, corruption became an accepted way of life because no one would step up and confront this corruption. My Dad owned a grapefruit plantation and wanted to subdivide it and sell building lots. When he attempted to do so … it became apparent that everyone in the Government had to be bribed. My dad refused to pay the bribes and after a major confrontation with the government officials over a period of 5 years … they finally allowed the subdivision. It is, I suppose, my exposure to so much corruption that affected the quality of civil life that motivated me to act when I saw the deliberate breaches of the Municipal Government Act occurring in St. Albert.
Definition of Pecuniary Interest.
Pecuniary interest is an interest that a person has in a matter because of a reasonable likelihood or expectation of appreciable financial gain or loss to the person or another person with whom the person is associated as provided in section 174 and 175 of the municipal government act.
Summary of the Court Case
The case I brought forward involved repeated breaches. This has never occurred in the history of Alberta and there has never been any individual in the history of the city of St. Albert that has been found in breach of the MGA. This is the most serious violation of the municipal government act that any elected official can be involved in.
The Judge found Nolan Crouse in breach of 2 counts of pecuniary interest in the MGA but declined to remove him from office. I will quote from the judge “ I have concluded that Mayor Nolan Crouse violated the pecuniary interest rules by not recusing himself from councils deliberations concerning the expense claims audit motion and the defamation action funding limit motion.”
Reasons for Initiating this Lawsuit
I brought forward this case because I have watched this council and previous ones that Mayor Crouse has been involved in operate in a manner that was not ethical. In the course of the past 3.5 years of this council many in the public had come to feel that the Mayor and city manager were above the Law. I wanted to challenge this premise and show that no one is above the law not even the Mayor.
In this current council I have seen the following occur:
- Mayor Crouse had failed to disclose income he was earning due to the nature of his elected office from the capital region board. At this point in time he was collecting a second income through his private corporation Crouse developments inc and was not adhering to the disclosure requirement of elected officials salary as required by the MGA
- Mayor Crouse double bill his expense accounts without any independent forensic audit and a majority of city council go along with the Mayor and work with him to subvert any attempts to provide an independent forensic audit
- I have watched a member of St. Albert city council use his position on council to obtain employment for himself at the city for a position in which he had no qualifications or experience.
- I have watched a former city manager and a majority of council vote to authorize that city manager to use unlimited funds to sue residents of St. Albert for defamation. The CAO had become perturbed that there was a website making allegations about the City Administration which he considered to be false representations. Although they had no idea who was actually producing that Website, they accused specific residents of producing defamatory materials and publicizing the name of this website to the local newspaper. In fact, it was the Mayor who had made this website known to the public through the local newspaper. Consequently, the Defendant joined the Mayor as a Third Party Defendant in the lawsuit . So now the Mayor had a very definite financial interest in the results of this lawsuit and still voted on motions at council related to this case.
- In addition to these above issues I also witnessed the Mayor voting on issues in which he had a pecuniary interest.
o That during the discussion of the matter of Nolan Crouse's wages for serving as Chairman of the Capital Regional Board, evidence was put forward that the Respondent had billed both the city of St. Albert and the Capital Regional Board for the same expense claim on numerous occasions and this allegation of double billing became a local news story.
o That during the October 27th meeting of City Council, a motion was placed on the floor to retain an independent auditor to examine the Respondent, Nolan Crouse's expense accounts and the Respondent, Nolan Crouse recused himself from discussing or voting on that motion.
o That some months later on May 25th. 2015 a motion was made “That an independent auditor be contracted to perform a 100% forensic audit of Mayor Crouse’s expenses to the City of St. Albert and the Capital Region Board from Mar 1. 2012 to December 31, 2014 and provide a written evaluation of the city’s expense claim review final report and process change recommendations, with funding of up to $15,000 from the stabilization reserve”.
o Councillor Heron requested this motion be split into two parts and so a motion was presented stating “Than an independent auditor be contracted to perform 100% forensic audit of Mayor Crouse’s expenses to the City of St. Albert and the Capital Region Board from march 1, 2012 to December31, 2014.
o Mayor Crouse did not recuse himself and ruled that this split motion was in order.
o Councillor Heron then challenged that ruling of the Chair and this challenge was carried by a vote of 4 to 2 with Crouse voting against his own ruling as Chairman.
o The result of this procedural manoeuvring was to effectively prevent a proper independent audit of Crouse’s expenses ever occurring.
o I also watched the Mayor vote on issues relating to an environmental concern that arose at 80 Salisbury when he owned property just 2 doors away from the subject property. He was concerned that publication of these environmental concerns might affect land values in the very neighborhood where he owned a revenue property.
These ethical issues that occurred on council are not limited to just the items I have listed, however they have contributed to create an environment in which it was difficult for council to operate. In some cases, accusations have been made that council was dysfunctional and I am not surprised with the amount of ethical issues that had arisen any council would have a tough time functioning. I am glad that council has tried to remedy some of these ethical issues by forcing the Mayor to disclose in the cities financial statements his earnings from the capital region board rather than to have then funneled through a third party corporate entity named Crouse Developments Inc.,……. firing the previous city manager, …. Terminating the employment of the former city council Gilles Prefontaine who obtained work for himself at the city through his position on council.
Now that the Mayor has been held to account for his pecuniary interest breaches I am satisfied that a new council will be able to start Fresh.
The Decision of the Court
The decision of the Court is very clear. After reviewing the facts in the expense claim audit matter the Court concluded …and I quote “
 In my view ,Mayor Crouse also had a pecuniary interest in the motion challenging his ruling that the audit motion was in order. It makes no difference whether the motion in question was substantive; as was the audit motion, or procedural, as was the motion to challenge the Mayor’s ruling that the motion was in order. The procedural motion raised a question in relation to the matter of an audit: Can the Council revisit the subject of an independent audit having decided less than a year ago not to authorize one? Passing the procedural motion prevented further consideration of the substantive motion. It had the same effect as defeating the substantive motion. The procedural motion had the same monetary significance to Mayor Crouse as the substantive motion.
 I conclude that Mayor Crouse had a pecuniary interest in the expense claim audit motions and by not recusing himself violated MGA s. 172(1)
In relation to the defamation lawsuit, the Court was equally clear in declaring that Mayor Crouse had violated the pecuniary interest provisions. At paragraph  of the Judgment, Justice Burrows states:
“In my view, the concern (i.e. the involvement in the Defamation Action matter) would exist even if Mayor Crouse’s name did not appear in the motion, as in the first part of the split motion. The problem did not arise because the motion mentioned his name. It arose because Mayor Crouse had a pecuniary interest in the subject of the continued funding of Mr. Draper’s action. Whether or not that funding was unlimited or limited could affect Mayor Crouse monetarily.”
Therefore at paragraph 67 the Court concludes:
“I conclude that Mayor Crouse had a pecuniary interest in the defamation funding limit motion.”
The Court’s Decision to not order Mayor Crouse to vacate his Office
After concluding that Mayor Crouse had violated the MGA provisions which are designed to prevent elected officials from dealing with matters in which they have a personal financial interest, the Court decided it would not order Mayor Crouse to vacate his office.
It is not appropriate for me to consider the Judges exercise of his discretion to allow Mayor Crouse to complete the 2 ½ months of his term. If the Court wanted to be Charitable toward Mayor Crouse, that is his prerogative. On my part, my motive was not to gain vengeance. My motive was to ensure that everyone complies with the Municipal Government Act. The Court’s decision vindicated my allegation that Mayor Crouse breached the MGA and re-affirmed the idea that everyone, no matter what their station in life, must abide by the Rule of Law. In this case that has occurred. Mayor Crouse has been found in breach of the pecuniary interest rules as set out in the MGA. I am very satisfied with the results of the judgement and I hope that this ruling can serve as a deterrent to all elected officials to ensure compliance with the rules.
At this stage after having been found in breach of the MGA by the courts I would respectfully suggest that Mayor Crouse do the honorable thing and admit to himself and the public that his actions were unethical and resign as Mayor. There are just 4 council meetings left in his term and this act would do a lot of good to repair the public trust that has been broken.