Two by­elec­tions could have been avoided, says Kennedy

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BYMELISSA JENK­INS

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.

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