|Posted by Chris Herridge on November 9, 2016 at 10:45 PM|
Municipal By-Election Report
Name # of Votes
Murphy, Maureen 319
Paul, Fraser 226
Dunn, Michelle 163
Belbin, Derek 067
Events surrounding the adjournment of By-Election of October 18, 2016
This is to inform the residents of the events that lead to the adjournment of the By-Election of October 18th.
Following nomination day on September 27, the office began receiving complaints from community members contesting the residency of one of the candidates. The Department of Municipal Affairs called the office to inform me that they were also receiving calls relating to a residency issue of a candidate.
Municipal Affairs discussed the requirements for eligibility relating to residency, and advised me, as a Returning Officer, that I was obligated to consider information I was receiving. I informed all who questioned me as to why I accepted the nomination form from someone not living in Witless Bay, that the Municipal Elections Act requires that a Returning Officer obtain sufficient identification from a candidate if there is uncertainty, and that I had done what was required of me. I also consulted with Municipal Affairs during this process to inquire if there was anything further a Returning Officer must do in circumstances like this. I was told there was nothing, that due diligence was done.
On October 17th, just prior to the office closing for the day, I was served with a Supreme Court of NL petition naming the Town of Witless Bay and the Minister of Municipal Affairs as respondents, challenging the residency of one of the candidates. Because this issue was now a legal matter, I immediately forwarded it to the Town's lawyer, asking his advice. Considering the timing of receipt of the document, the lawyer, Stephen Penney advised that it would be prudent for me to adjourn the by-election scheduled for 8 a.m. the next morning in order to review and assess the Court petition. The adjournment of a by-election is legal under Section 8 (3) of the Municipal Elections Act.
Following a review from the Department of Municipal Affairs, and in consultation with the Town's lawyer, I have now been directed to proceed with the by-election.
The responsibility of a Returning Officer is extremely challenging. There is very little legislation pertaining to guidelines for us to follow, and absolutely nothing in this particular instance which I've had to experience with this by-election. Municipal Affairs said that this one is "breaking new ground." That is not only worrisome, but unacceptable in a municipal world where we are guided by Provincial Acts and Regulations. Add the presence of a court action to this mix and there is only one option and that is to refer the matter to legal counsel.
For my part, as a Returning Officer working on behalf of this community, I regret that the candidates, residents, and council had to go through this, however, I absolutely do not regret the action I was forced to take. Had I made one wrong call on my own with no legislation in place to protect me, this could have been detrimental to the good people of this community. On a final note, I'd like to wish good luck to the candidates in this upcoming by-election on Tuesday.
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