Call­ing for change to Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties Act

The Southern Gazette - - News - mar­tineblue­[email protected]

One of Slaney’s com­plaints against the act is that there is noth­ing within the act that holds elected of­fi­cials ac­count­able for their ac­tions.

“In the House of As­sem­bly they can say, you are out of our party un­til we fig­ure out what’s go­ing on here. We can’t do that here,” Slaney said. “I think if gov­ern­ment had a mech­a­nism, if the act held peo­ple re­spon­si­ble, if there was a code of ethics that you had to fol­low… there’s no con­se­quence for not fol­low­ing the act. You get a let­ter that says don’t do this again.

“An elected of­fi­cial is not go­ing to get re­moved un­less you ac­tu­ally see some­one tak­ing money out of the cof­fers and putting it in their pocket. There is also no way to en­force any­thing in the Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties Act.”

Slaney be­lieves the mu­nic­i­pal lead­ers should have ac­cess to an im­par­tial com­plaints in­ves­ti­ga­tor.

“There has to be some type of in­de­pen­dent body not at­tached to gov­ern­ment,” Slaney com­mented, “with gov­ern­ment act­ing as the bridge for vol­un­teers who are run­ning lo­cal govern­ments, who are also work­ing, who are also rais­ing fam­i­lies, who are also liv­ing in the com­mu­ni­ties.

“The process should be pro­fes­sional, con­fi­den­tial and safe. We need sup­port. We’re vol­un­teers in the com­mu­nity and we’re not ex­perts. We didn’t have the ex­per­tise on how to con­duct the in­ves­ti­ga­tions and what to do. It put a lot of pres­sure on staff, a lot of pres­sure on coun­cil, it put a lot of pres­sure on coun­cil’s fam­i­lies and it put a lot of pres­sure on the com­mu­nity.”

An on­line source to voice sug­ges­tions for chang­ing the Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties Act was also too public a process ac­cord­ing to Slaney.

“At one point I thought I was go­ing to put in some sug­ges­tions on­line,” Slaney said, “and the only mech­a­nism I saw for mak­ing those sug­ges­tions would be writ­ing within the fo­rum and your sug­ges­tions were public. That wasn’t safe or com­fort­able.”

Slaney said that overall, the Depart­ment of Mu­nic­i­pal Af­fairs did not help Marys­town’s coun­cil is­sues.

“We asked many times for gov­ern­ment to me­di­ate and they came out and watched meet­ings, but at the end of the day they did noth­ing,” she said.

En­cour­ag­ing women

De­spite Slaney’s neg­a­tive coun­cil ex­pe­ri­ence, she de­cided to run for mayor in 2017.

“I wasn’t go­ing to run for re­elec­tion what­so­ever,” Slaney ex­plained. “Then my youngest daugh­ter, it’s just amaz­ing how they can put it into per­spec­tive.

“She said, ‘You know I don’t want to see you ex­pe­ri­ence what you did for an­other four years; I don’t want to see you go through that again. So why don’t you run for mayor, be­cause then you’re ei­ther in or you’re out and you may not have the same ex­pe­ri­ence.’

“So I felt that I owed it not only as a mother but as a woman in pol­i­tics to say ‘Lis­ten, this needs to change and I’m giv­ing you an op­tion.’ If you want it to change, here it is. I’ve tried and I didn’t give up, I didn’t quit and my daugh­ters were ac­tu­ally ex­cited when I lost. They told me how proud they were of me and how strong I was and that meant more than any elec­tion ever could.”

Slaney hopes that in speak­ing up, she can help make these types of sit­u­a­tions eas­ier for other women who choose to ex­plore pol­i­tics.

“We’re try­ing to en­cour­age women to be­come more in­volved in their com­mu­ni­ties, pol­i­tics and gov­ern­ment,” Slaney said. “If you’re hear­ing these sto­ries and there’s no so­lu­tion to these sto­ries, why are you go­ing to go sit at a ta­ble? How are peo­ple go­ing to feel safe, if there isn’t an in­de­pen­dent body that they can go re­port to?”

The South­ern Gazette con­tacted the Depart­ment of Mu­nic­i­pal Af­fairs but did not re­ceive a re­sponse by the print dead­line.

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