Monday, March 14, 2011

Should We Appoint or Hold A By-Election?

As you know, Debbie Urbanowicz resigned from Council on February 28 for personal and health reasons. She served the Town since 2003 and won re-election in both 2006 and 2010. She will be missed and Council accepted her resignation “with regret.”

During our March 7 Council meeting, we declared her Ward One seat vacant. Later in the evening and during our General Committee meeting, Councillors debated a report outlining the options to fill this seat. (For a copy of the report, please click here.)

The Municipal Act provides two options:

First, Council may appoint an “eligible” person within 60 days of declaring a seat vacant (before May 6). An eligible person includes someone who consents to the appointment, and is a Canadian citizen who is at least 18 years old and resides in the Town.

Second, Council may hold a by-election. An eligible candidate would have to fulfill the same criteria as above. Staff estimates that the financial cost to conduct a by-election in Ward One would be approximately $8,000.

Vacancies like this have occurred twice in Pelham’s history. The first was in 1972 when a Councillor died while in office. Since the death was within 90 days before the next election, Council followed the Municipal Act and did not fill the vacancy.

The second time was in 2008, when Malcolm Allen was elected to the House of Commons. With two-years remaining in the term, Council appointed the municipal candidate who placed next in Ward One the 2006 Municipal Election – James Lane.

As you may know, General Committee recommended that the Town advertise the vacant seat for three weeks and call for “applications from the public.” The March 7th recommendation further stated that “…Council will meet in closed session to review applicant’s applications and to determine by vote which applicant, if any, will be appointed to Council for the remainder of the term.”

A recorded vote was taken in which Councillors Gary Accursi, Larry Clark, and John Durley voted in favour and Councillor Catherine King and I opposed the recommendation. (Councillor Peter Papp declared a perceived conflict of interest because a potential appointee – James Lane – is his brother-in-law.)

On March 21 the Committee’s recommendation will be presented to Council. Council may then debate the matter again and will take a final vote to decide the course of action.

Before that vote, I am very interested in hearing your views on the matter. You may also want to contact your Councillors directly; for their contact information, please click here or call Town Hall at 905-892-2607.