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Add Lac du Bonnet to the collection of troublesome rural municipalities. I didn't have enough room this morning to mention a recent hubbub in the cottage town where retired cattle rancher Dave Fournier was barred from recording council meetings on his digital recorder. Fournier sounds like a gentle soul and far from a troublemaker — he recorded meetings just like any journalist might because he has difficulty reading and writing. For the scoop, I'll just point to a far better source than me. Check out the quite awesome picture of the rancher holding up his offensive mini-recorder in front of the municipality sign.

Despite the silliness over Fournier's recordings, word from Lac du Bonnet ratepayers like 20-year resident Cindy Kellendonk is that the Lac du Bonnet council is actually much more open and reasonable now than it ever was. Several years back, there was controversy after controversy, especially over a failed merger between the town and rural municipality, and the former reeve was summarily punted for missing too many meetings.

But Kellendonk said the RM's troubled past and the current Fournier situation highlights just how hard it can be for ratepayers to get action when they think shenanigans are afoot on council. She said complaining to the ombudsman, the auditor general, the municipal board, is a slow and spotty process. There are lots of things those bodies can't really investigate, and the other option — going to court  — is expensive and complicated. Kellendonk agreed with a lot of people who say the province needs a mechanism to step in and help hinky municipal governments.

"We need an avenue for the public to go to the province and say 'There's a question of ethical practice here. We need you to come in and help us better manage things'," said Kellendonk.

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About Mary Agnes Welch

Mary Agnes Welch joined the Free Press in 2002, first as a general assignment reporter and then covering city hall and the Manitoba legislature before moving to her current post as public policy reporter.

Before Winnipeg, she worked at the Windsor Star and the Odessa American, a small daily newspaper in West Texas. There, in addition to covering more than 20 counties, she took high school football scores from coaches all over West Texas by phone every Friday night.

Mary Agnes is a graduate of Columbia University’s journalism school, has won several Western Ontario Newspaper Awards and has been part of two teams of reporters nominated for a Michener Award. In 2011, she was nominated for a National Newspaper Award in the beat category. She is also the former national president of the Canadian Association of Journalists.

She once misspelled "Shih Tzu" in the paper and received 37 emails from angry dog-owners.

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