Critics raising questions of Chief Electoral Officer, over handling of letter
Published Friday, November 23, 2012 6:43PM MST Last Updated Friday, November 23, 2012 7:11PM MST
Opposition parties were grilling Alberta’s Chief Electoral Officer Friday, over a series of recommendations he wrote earlier this year, that appears to not have made it to opposition party members.
During a committee meeting at the Legislature Friday, Chief Electoral Officer Brian Fjeldheim was questioned by committee members from opposition parties – who said a letter he wrote over the summer with recommendations for the Elections Accountability Act was not passed on to certain members.
“I am very concerned about your understanding of your role,” NDP MLA Rachel Notley said in the committee meeting Friday. “You are not an officer of the Minister of Justice; you are an officer of this assembly.”
The letter was sent by Fjeldheim to the Justice Minister in August, but members of opposition parties said they didn’t get a chance to look at the proposals until this week.
When questioned, Fjeldheim was defensive, saying he sent a copy to the committee chair, PC MLA David Xiao.
Xiao said the letter contained no indication that the chair had to distribute the letter.
“It was obviously my intent that everyone who is on this committee would receive this document,” Fjeldheim said.
Fjeldheim’s impartiality was also questioned by some members; the official is also investigating dozens of complaints of illegal campaign donations.
“I don’t believe he was necessarily acting in any vindictive manner, but it does stink,” Wildrose MLA Jeff Wilson said.
“I think it was totally overblown,” PC MLA Neil Brown said. “I think it has been highly politicized.”
Later, Fjeldheim spoke to members of the media, and said he thought his recommendations had been passed on to all members of the all-party committee.
“My assumption was that it would be distributed to the committee, it was not,” Fjeldheim said. “I’m sorry for that.”
As for Fjeldheim’s investigation into political donations, the Chief Electoral Officer told the committee he will need to hire more staff, in order to investigate all of the allegations – including the much-publicized large donation from Daryl Katz.
Fjeldheim would not comment on that case, but said the investigation was ongoing but he didn’t know when it was going to be complete.
With files from Susan Amerongen