‘It wasn’t us, we didn’t slam the mayor,’ says village of Morrin

By Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Village of Morrin says a social media page slamming the former mayor of the tiny municipality doesn’t belong to them. The revelation was made at the regular council meeting in the village office Aug. 18.

Former mayor Howard Helton appeared as a delegation to the council meeting with several questions for the village about a Facebook page named “Morrin – Village of Morrin, Alberta” that printed statements encouraging people to enter the upcoming municipal election to ensure Helton, who is a registered candidate for the 2021 election, doesn’t win a seat at the council table.

Helton stated he was concerned about “…some of the content” on that Facebook page, including posts dated Apr. 16 and July 24 which he provided to the village.

The posts were also provided to the ECA Review.

Helton also referred to the July 24 post.

Helton, who confirmed the “husband and wife” referred to him and his spouse, told Official Administrator (OA) Harold Johnsrude that he had a number of questions about this Facebook page, including is that page under the Village of Morrin’s control, do those two posts represent the village’s official position on Helton and his wife’s candidacy, who wrote those two posts and who is responsible for posting on that page?

Johnsrude stated the village does not use Facebook and doesn’t have a Facebook page so couldn’t comment on any of the questions.

Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Annette Plachner also said, “We don’t have Facebook.”

Helton stated he couldn’t find any person’s name associated with the Facebook page and added it looked like the page was created in 2011.

Village staff during the council meeting found the Facebook page in question and noted there were posts dating back at least several years with photos of the village.

Helton suggested the village look into the situation as a Facebook page that appears to represent the village but is controlled by an unknown person could put the village in a bad light.

The Facebook page in question was located Aug. 19 by the ECA Review and while no individual’s name was visible, a phone number was displayed along with a link to the Morrin library’s website.

A classification of the page states “government and public service” along with “government organization.”

Readers should note that a Municipal Affairs candidate guide for the upcoming municipal election is available on the provincial government’s website and many municipal sites that includes rules from the Local Authorities Election Act and Municipal Government Act including the prime eligibility requirement to run in the election: “To become a municipal candidate you must be at least 18 years of age on nomination day, a Canadian citizen, and you must have been a resident of the local jurisdiction for the six consecutive months immediately preceding Nomination Day.”

It also lists other situations that render a person ineligible to run for municipal office, including being an auditor for that specific municipality, owing more than $50 in unpaid property taxes or having been convicted of an elections offense in the past 10 years.

Nowhere does it state that people living in the same household shouldn’t run for the same council, or shouldn’t sign each other’s, or their own, nomination papers.

By Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter/East Central Alberta Review