CORNER BROOK The new town council in Irishtown-Summerside was sworn in at the town hall on Tuesday night, but a vacancy at the table means the town will have to hold a byelection.
Freddy Bennett, who was among the six people acclaimed to council, was disqualified after it was discovered that he owed taxes.
Town clerk Rita Blanchard said once she became aware of the problem she contacted the Department of Municipal Affairs and was told that if Bennett made good on his tax bill that he could still serve as a councillor.
She informed Bennett of that and he brought in a cheque. However, that wasn’t the end of it.
“I deposited it and it came back,” said Blanchard.
That meant Bennett was no longer eligible to serve.
When reached by cellphone in St. John’s, Bennett said he wasn’t upset by the turn of events
“That’s the rules,” he said, adding he has no problem with following the rules and regulations. He said the bill was for this year’s taxes.
“That was a problem with processing at the bank,” he said of the reason the cheque was returned. “I’m still trying to straighten the problem out with the bank.”
When asked if he would run in the byelection, Bennett said, “I’m thinking about it.”
Blanchard said there is no rule against it.
“If everything is up to date then it wouldn’t be a problem.
Blanchard expects the byelection will be held within the next 30 days. Once she confirms the exact process with Municipal Affairs she’ll put out notices to the public informing them of the date of the byelection and a new date for nominations.
Meanwhile, Mayor Tony Blanchard said the town has not other choice but to go the route of a byelection.
He said there was nothing personal in the incident, which has been talked about around the town.
“You welcome anybody that’s willing to put themselves forward to serve their community,” said the mayor. “Don’t condemn before you know.”
The need for the byelection is the second bit of controversy to affect the new council. The first came less than a day after the Sept. 24 election and involved concerns over a potential for a conflict of interest. That’s because the town clerk and the new mayor are married and the polling clerk on election day was Rita’s sister. However, according to the province’s Municipal Elections Act, there is no legislation preventing a relative of a candidate from serving as a returning officer or a polling clerk in a municipal election.