At the start of November, the newly-elected Lethbridge City Council met for their organizational meeting. In it, they outlined the deputy mayor and acting mayor schedule for the next four years.
They also assigned themselves to various boards, commissions, and committees.
One of the commissions included in these appointments was the Lethbridge Police Commission, which will receive Belinda Crowson, who is now in her second term on council, and John Middleton-Hope, who is a rookie councillor.
Crowson had previously sat as a council representative on the commission during the last administration, so her continued presence could be useful on the commission.
Middleton-Hope is new to the commission as a councillor, but he comes with nearly 3 decades of experience in policing, including a 4-year stint as police chief in Lethbridge.
While it can be useful having a background in policing to understand the issues brought forward to the commission, it can also call question to his ability to be impartial. If an issue comes forward that criticizes the service in some capacity, would his closeness to policing in general and this specific service affect his ability to be open-minded?
It’s not just impartiality though.
In 2012, Middleton-Hope’s son Chris became a constable with the Lethbridge Police Service. That seems like closer to a conflict of interest than simply having been a cop for nearly 30 years.
It’s not the first time a city councillor has been on the commission while a family member has been a cop.
Our newest mayor, Blaine Hyggen, for example, served on the commission as a city councillor for 2020 and 2021. His brother, Braylon, has been a constable with the service since 2016, as a K-9 officer, as well as part of the downtown policing unit.
I may not have been the only one to notice this potential conflict of interest.
In the minutes from the organizational meeting, there was a reference to closed meeting discussions about the appointments:
Be it resolved that Council direct that the closed meeting discussions, reports, documents and attachments with respect to City Council Appointments to Boards, Commissions and Committees remain confidential pursuant to Sections 24 (Advice from Officials) of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act
Because that discussion was part of an in-camera meeting, we won’t have access to what was discussed. It’d be interesting to find out what concerns were raised in that meeting, however.
I also note that Crowson, the other councillor on the police commission was the only member of city council to oppose the board, committee, and council appointments, which were approved as an entire slate by a vote of 8–1.
No one on council questioned Crowson on her vote, and there was no chance to debate the motion, so there is no public record of her rationale for the opposition.
Crowson did not oppose any appointments of members of the public to boards, committees, and commissions.