By-election to determine new Colchester rep on Council

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Bondy questions discussion on possibilities held at meeting

by Sylene Argent

On Monday evening, the majority of the remaining Essex Council members voted in favour of proceeding with a by-election for Colchester to fill the vacant seat at the municipal decision-making table.

At the July 4 meeting, Council learned one of the two Colchester members on Council, Bill Caixeiro, handed in his resignation. At the July 17 meeting, Council passed a motion to host a special meeting on Monday, July 24 with the intention of administration bringing forward a draft bylaw to host a by-election for Council consideration. The special meeting moved the process ahead two weeks.

On Monday, Councillor Larry Snively, the other Colchester representative, made a motion to open up discussion on the by-election as he believed more discussion was needed.

Town Clerk Robert Auger explained a motion to reconsider the direction that came about the last meeting was actually passed because Council deliberated on the matter.

“I could go either way, but I would like to open it up to discussion just to see what the rest of Council thinks,” Snively commented on the possibility of either going with a by-election to handle the issue or appoint an individual to the vacant seat. “We could come up with the same decision…what I’m struggling with is the period of the term [left] and the cost of the election.”

Snively said he has heard mixed feelings on the matter from members of the public.

Councillor Sherry Bondy asked her colleagues if she could record the meeting. “I have a lot of concerns that we are having [this] conversation and it is not on TV like our regular Council meetings are because…last Monday we had a different conversation.

“In the public meeting, you said one thing and now, I know this is a public meeting, but it is a very different public meeting because we are not on TV….and now you are flip-flopping.”

“Nobody’s flip-flopping,” Snively responded.

Bondy noted the Town has suggested the cost-savings of having the vacant seat over the next several months will be around $9000, which she suggested could offset some of the cost of the by-election, which is estimated to be between $12,000 and $15,000.

She added that she understands there are mixed feelings out there. But, Council needs to “Stay together and go out there and say, ‘the majority of Council has spoken, we are having a by-election.’

“Nobody wants to do a by-election, trust me. That blood is not on our hands. You didn’t resign, and you didn’t resign, and I didn’t resign…we are picking up the pieces and moving forward,” she said.

Later in the meeting, Snively said he did not appreciate Bondy coming after him. He said the Mayor asked him to open up the discussion. No one said he was going to change his mind, Snively said. All he said was that he could go either way.

At the last regular Council meeting, Councillor Steve Bjorkman was in favour of appointment due to the time it would take to get someone in the vacant seat via by-election. He said if Council was going to start revisiting past decisions, there would be no continuity and there would be no faith in what was being done. At this point, Bjorkman said he supported the decision made previously to move ahead with the by-election for those reasons.

Mayor Ron McDermott argued appointments are made democratically. He said he didn’t feel enough discussion was had at the last meeting and he was hoping to share his thoughts on Monday evening. He said not one person has told him to go forward with a by-election from Ward One.

“To me, I am in this position, if I make a mistake, man-o-man do I want to correct it. To me, I think we made a mistake to the tune of $15,000,” he said.

He had concerns that from what he gathered as it pertained to appointments that Council would not go down the list to appoint the second runner up from the last election to the vacant seat. The First runner up was Councillor John Scott, a former Councillor who came in just seven points behind Caixeiro in the 2014 election, who publicly noted he was not interested in taking the position on.

Bondy said it was irrelevant as Bjorkman had suggested an application process at the last meeting.

The Mayor also had concerns with the by-election as it could give an unfair advantage to Colchester candidates who may want to run for the mayoral position in the 2018 election.

Bondy again said it was irrelevant to the issue and noted the Mayor should not suggest who may want to run for the mayoral position in the next election who is currently sitting on Council.

The Mayor asked Bondy to stop interrupting him.

In a recorded vote of five in favour and the Mayor opposed, Council carried the motion to move forward with a by-election and gave thee readings to the correlating bylaw. They also received administration’s report on the matter.

Candidates could begin submitting their names as early as Tuesday, July 25. Nominations will close at 2 p.m. on Thursday, September 7.  Voting day is scheduled for October 23 and the elected Councillor will take oath on November 6, the report to Council on the matter states.

Council also passed a bylaw to host an advance voting poll for the by-election. This will be held on Saturday, October 14 from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. at the Harrow Arena.

Council also had to decide how handle the vacancies on committees that now exist. Caixeiro sat on the Police Services Board, as an alternate on the ELK Energy Board, and on the Personnel, Finance, Community in Blooms, and ACT Committees.

Council appointed Snively to the Police Services Board. He offered to take on the extra work for the remainder of the Council term. That was the Committee most concerned about. The rest will be dealt with at a later date.