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Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche appointed to top position on Essex Council

- special meeting to be scheduled to decide

how to fill now vacant Deputy Mayor position -

by Sylene Argent

On Monday evening, Essex Council met virtually to decide how to move forward in filling the recently vacated mayoral position.

  During the meeting, Essex Council moved to appoint an individual to the vacant mayoral position, and selected Deputy Mayor Richard to take on that responsibility.

  After entering a guilty plea to the charge of having induced or procured a person to vote when that person was not entitled to do so, contrary to section 89(d) of the Municipal Actions Act, at Provincial Court on Friday, January 7, Larry Snively resigned as Mayor for the Town of Essex the following Wednesday.

  On Monday, January 17, Essex Council hosted a special meeting to discuss the matter, and Council unanimously approved a motion to declare the position as vacant, as required through the Municipal Act, and to host the special meeting to discuss the matter further.

  On Monday evening, Council was tasked with deciding to either host a by-election, with the most efficient date being April 25, 2022, or appoint someone to the mayoral position from either the remaining sitting members of Council, from the candidate list from the 2018 election, or to undergo a call for applications, or through an “at large” nomination process.

  “The decision as to how to fill a Council vacancy is a decision to be made by Council and Council alone,” Director of Legislative Services/Clerk, Robert Auger, said on Monday evening.

  In the process of narrowing down the options as a way to move forward, Council first eliminated the option to hold a by-election. Councillor Chris Vander Doelen said his constituents have been loud and clear in thinking a by-election was not necessary.

  This left appointing someone to the position by appointment, but how to do so still needed to be determined. Meloche then asked each Council member if they wanted to appoint someone from Council or outside Council.

  Councillor Steve Bjorkman believed the appointee should come from the Council table as there are too many things going on at the municipal and County levels.

  Councillor Sherry Bondy leaned towards appointing the last election’s runner-up, Ron Rogers – who has stated he would be interested in taking on the position – she said this meets the intent of the Municipal Act as the shortest and straightest line to fill the vacancy. It would also not give an unfair advantage to any current member of Council in the general election this fall.

  Councillors Morley Bowman, Joe Garon, Chris Vander Doelen, and Kim Verbeek were in favour of appointing from within Council, citing a variety of reasons, including the short-time frame and doing what was in the best interest of the Town and its business over the next several months.

  Meloche vacated the Chairperson’s position for the meeting to note the mayor’s position needs to be held by someone who can hit the ground running, and he believes that will be difficult to do by someone not currently on Council.

  Based on the comments from Council, Bjorkman made a motion that Council take nominations for the mayoral position from current sitting members of Council, which was passed. Bondy was opposed.

  Bowman nominated Meloche for the mayoral position, with Vander Dolen supporting.

  Bondy asked how Meloche felt about using “re-elect” on election signs this coming fall, if he were appointed to the mayor position and then ran for the top position in the coming municipal election. Meloche said he would take that under thought.

  Garon nominated Bondy, noting she has expressed desire to become Mayor. Verbeek supported it. Bondy thanked her nominators, but declined. “I will wait 273 days,” she said.

  In a recorded vote, all were in favour of nominating Meloche to the mayoral position, except Bondy who was opposed. Motion passed.

  Meloche consented to the nomination.

  Council then passed a by-law to confirm the nomination for the balance of the Current Term of Council, effective immediately. Bondy was opposed.

  Council then declared the Deputy Mayor position as vacant, under Section 259(d) of the Municipal Act, as a result of the member being appointed to the mayoral position. Council shall, within 60-days, decide to appoint someone to this vacancy or hold a by-election.

  In addition, Council voted in favour of directing the Clerk to call another special meeting to discuss how to fill the vacancy of the Deputy Mayor position. The meeting will more than likely be held on Monday, January 31 at 6pm.