Following an independent investigation stemming from a complaint received by City Council on April 15, 2021, Councillor Buck Buchanan faces sanctions for breaching Red Deer City Council’s Code of Conduct Bylaw. By a majority vote on July 26, 2021, Council accepted the findings in the investigator’s report, which conclude that Councillor Buchanan breached three sections of the Code of Conduct Bylaw.
All municipalities in Alberta are required by the Municipal Government Act (MGA) to have a Code of Conduct Bylaw that sets shared expectations for conduct or behaviour. The bylaw outlines how members should conduct themselves while carrying out their responsibilities and establishes a review and investigation process when a complaint is received. The City of Red Deer passed its Code of Conduct Bylaw (2608-2018) on July 23, 2018.
The formal Code of Conduct complaint (C-01-2021), submitted by Mayor Tara Veer in response to public and staff complaints, alleges that Councillor Buchanan breached the bylaw through his social media activity in January 2021 and prior actions, causing City Council to lose leadership credibility and frustrating The City’s pandemic response efforts.
After a review committee of three Council members initially reviewed the complaint, and by majority vote determined that it should proceed to formal investigation, SAGE Analytics Inc. was hired to investigate and report back to City Council.
SAGE is a municipal consulting firm with expertise in governance evaluation, dispute resolution, and council code of conduct complaint investigations. SAGE utilized a process that included interviews and follow-up with both parties, witness interviews, a review of related correspondence received by The City, document review, analysis and report writing.
With the investigation complete, the findings conclude that Councillor Buchanan breached three sections in the Council Code of Conduct Bylaw:
- 7.1, which states “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.”
- 7.2, which states “members shall respect the Municipality as an institution, its bylaws, policies and procedures and shall encourage public respect for the Municipality, its bylaws, policies and procedures” and
- 4.1(d), which states, City Council must “arrange their private affairs and conduct themselves in a manner that promotes public confidence.”
According to the findings, a social media post made by Councillor Buchanan in January 2021, combined with his prior actions, amounted to a breach of the bylaw. SAGE determined these actions were disrespectful to the local pandemic response efforts and increased a division in the community between individuals in favour of and opposed to health restrictions. SAGE’s report finds that through Councillor Buchanan’s actions, The City’s reputation was damaged, and The City’s pandemic response efforts were negatively impacted. They also determined he demonstrated a pattern of conduct where he made negative comments that did not promote public confidence in The City’s pandemic response efforts.
Having accepted that Councillor Buchanan contravened three sections of the Bylaw, Council considered the sanctions recommended by SAGE and ultimately resolved by majority vote to require that Councillor Buchanan:
- Issue a public apology to Red Deer residents, businesses, staff, and Council for his actions and social media post on January 27, 2021, which caused increased confusion and division in the community during a time of crisis; and that this apology be provided to the satisfaction of Council, during a public portion of a Council meeting.
- Arrange an in-person meeting with the AHS Central Zone Medical Director, or designate to offer a personal apology to Alberta Health Services for any harm caused by his public comments during the pandemic response.
- Be suspended from all Council committees and all Deputy Mayor rotation duties until sincere apologies are provided.
- Complete social media training hired and paid for by The City of Red Deer that aligns with typical media training for City staff.
“It is with heavy hearts that Council reviewed the findings of SAGE Analytics Inc., respecting the complaint against Councillor Buchanan. Council’s highest priority throughout these proceedings has been to ensure the integrity of the process in terms of procedural fairness, natural justice, public transparency, and the independence and rigor of the investigation in its entirety," said Deputy Mayor Vesna Higham. "These are never easy matters to address, but I can assure our public of the utmost integrity of proceedings from start to finish.”
The investigation is considered complete. Councillor Buchanan continues to serve as Red Deer City Councillor.
This is the first formal Code of Conduct complaint received by The City of Red Deer.
Additional information resources:
- FAQ - Code of Conduct investigation closes with sanctions for Councillor Buchanan (pdf)
- Council Code of Conduct Complaint Investigation Report C-01-2021 (pdf)
- Code of Conduct Bylaw 3608/2018 (pdf)
For more information, please contact:
The City of Red Deer
Councillor Vesna Higham
The City of Red Deer