By JAYMIE L. WHITE
Special to The Appalachian
KIPPENS – As most municipalities have concluded their elections and signs have come down, one municipality is noticeably absent. The Town of Kippens has had their election deferred by the Department of Municipal Affairs for two months, with a new election date scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 30.
According to an email from Minister of Municipal Affairs Krista Lynn Howell, obtained through the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy (ATIPP), the delay is to provide enough time for the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs to complete the special investigation into allegations of harassment against Mayor Debbie Brake-Patton. It will also allow for both parties involved to be able to respond to the inquiry before it is under final consideration.
The authority of the special investigation report comes from the Municipal Affairs Act and states that inspectors will be appointed to examine and inspect all books of record and account belonging to the municipality. The special investigation, which commenced in Dec. 2020, is expected to have findings available in the coming weeks and the Town of Kippens is to conduct business as usual until the investigation is concluded.
This isn’t the first time complaints have been brought forward against the Town of Kippens. As early as 2017 numerous issues have been raised surrounding violations of municipal legislation.
There is an active lawsuit filed by Millbrook Development against the town and four members of council related to the rescinding of the removal order of the Aucoin farm in Kippens. There was a previous harassment complaint made against the town clerk and deputy-mayor for the handling of the dog park tender, and there is a file that remains active where the town failed to meet the deadline set by the privacy commissioner’s office in accordance with the Access to Information Act.
John Hogan, a resident of Kippens who has been active on the Kippens Community Forum expressing concerns and issues within the town, said he feels it is important for residents to understand what is going on around them.
“Because of the sequence of events that have led us to this point in time, it’s important that these facts are laid out to the community,” said Hogan. “People need to be informed on the actual facts, and not just the personal opinions they read that are posted on the forum.”
In his Facebook posts, which have garnered much attention, Hogan says he is attempting to keep his personal feelings and beliefs on the backburner while providing the facts and information necessary for people to make their own determinations.
“My goal was to address the ‘grey areas’ of governance within our community,” said Hogan. “There’s a lot of grey areas in terms of interpretations of legislation. This seems to have caused a rift amongst our community, our residents. It’s caused a rift between council and council members. Overall it seems there’s a failure of our council function accordingly and to execute the legislation without any reasonable doubt in the community in respect to wrongdoing.”
Hogan said he took it upon himself to watch other community meetings, to gain some information into how other municipalities do things and if the tension he was noticing was accurate or even commonplace.
“I’m a concerned resident. I see a lot of conflict of interest, monetary gains, and not a very united council for the governance of our community.”
Hogan believes that they (Municipal and Provincial Affairs) only looking at what’s happening in front of them and not looking at what has transpired thus far that might have led to these issues.
“These situations have resulted in all these allegations into acts of wrongdoing, conflicts of interest, and other forms of illegitimate, grey-area conduct,” said Hogan. “My fear is that they picked up this story midway and didn’t look back at the root cause of the ongoing issues that our town has experienced.”
Hogan worries that because of a lack of assistance, events are continuing to spiral.
“It seems like our community has been left to fend for itself with no intervention from the senior governing bodies to provide proper guidance for our council,” said Hogan. “This is a story of the de-evolution of our council and without proper intervention on the government’s behalf, it won’t be able to improve.”
Mayor Brake-Patton was contacted for comment, but due to the ongoing investigation is unable to comment.