Two byelections could have been avoided, says Kennedy
When former Carbonear mayor and current MHA for Carbonear-Harbour Grace Sam Slade resigned from the town’s top post Dec. 2 — less than a week after being named MHA — Deputy Mayor George Butt Jr. announced he was ready to take on the role.
A motion by council to conduct a byelection for the mayor position and have Butt assume the mayor’s chair temporarily was approved. But that is not the option Butt would have liked, he told The Compass Jan. 15.
Other options included Butt taking over the role for the remainder of the term — which was Butt’s expectation— or council could have held a secret ballot to choose a new mayor.
Council’s decision meant for the third time since September, the residents of Carbonear would head to the polls for another election if more than one candidate stepped forward. The single byelection is expected to cost between $6,000 and $6,500, as per a new estimate provided to The Compass by town officials.
In order to run for mayor, Butt — or any other councillor —will have to resign his council seat. In doing so, he will leave an open spot on council, which will have to be filled by possibly sending voters to the polls for the fourth time if there ie more than one candidate.
Would the town be able to have one byelection for both positions if Butt or any other member of council decided to run? Or would the town have to have two byelections?
The fate of whether or not the town would have one o r two appeared to be in Butt’s hands. He was the only council member to openly say he was running.
Avoiding a byelection
The Municipalities Act states a municipality has 90 days to elect a new leader if a vacancy opens up.
Returning officer Cathy Somers — who also serves as town clerk — told The Compass there is currently only one open spot on council, the mayor’s seat.
“A council can only fill a vacancy once that vacancy exists,” she said.
Until Butt resigns, the thought of having either two byelections or two ballots— mayor and councillor — is only hypothetical.
In order to add a ballot for councillor to the upcoming byelection — which is currently scheduled to take place Feb. 18 — certain criteria had to be met.
As outlined in a written response from Somers, a nomination day — in this case, Jan. 22 — must be advertised for 10 days prior.
Because of media deadlines, the information had to be submitted to The Compass by Jan. 2 in order to fulfill the advertising requirements as set out in legislation.
After details of a nomination day are publicized, they can no longer be changed, Somers explained, meaning it is not possible to add a second ballot for councillor.
If the nomination date were to change to accommodate for resignations after the Jan. 2 cutoff, the town would have to advertise for the second position. In doing so, the 90-day limitation to elect a mayor would pass.
For Butt, that meant he would have had to resign before Jan. 2 for his seat to become vacant, and to avoid the necessity of two byelections.
“It would have saved the taxpayers a second byelection if they had moved me up to mayor, a s wel l ,” Butt explained. “Most people I’ve talked to — and I speak to a lot of people weekly in my job (as a mail carrier with Canada Post) — most people thought (the council) should have moved me up.”
Kennedy weighs in
Three members of council — David Kennedy, Ray Noel and Ed Goff — opposed the idea of promoting Butt into the mayor’s chair for the remainder of the term, arguing that Butt did not seek the mayor’s chair on Sept. 24. Carbonear is one of many larger towns that have a separate ballot for mayor.
“I don’t feel… appointing a mayor a little over two months into the term is appropriate (since) it would have taken the rights out of the hands of the citizens who normally get to vote for a mayor,” Kennedy said.
“If it was closer to the end of the four-year term, I would vote to appoint a mayor as a means to savings the taxpayers money.”
The prospect of having two byelections in the coming months is not sitting well with any member of council, but Kennedy believes Butt could avoided such a scenario by resigning in early January.
When confronted with this question, Butt replied: “I want to get as much time in as mayor as possible, that’s why (I haven’t resigned).”
“The $5,000 to $7,500 spent on an additional byelection means one less small lane or road won't be paved, a piece of playground equipment can't be purchased or one more program for our seniors, youth or general public won't be implemented,” Kennedy concluded.
Last kick at the can
Butt said recently he will not seek a spot on council if he loses the bid for mayor on Feb. 18, noting, “someone else can have it.”
Butt said he will present his resignation to town officials at the Jan. 20 council meeting, before submitting his nomination papers on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, former deputy mayor Ches Ash confirmed today in a news release that he will again challenge for the mayor’s chair.
During the September municipal general election, Ash was defeated by incumbent Sam Slade.