Complaints Lead to Election Bylaw Review in Essex

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Essex council has agreed to a review of the town's municipal elections bylaw.

The move follows Ward 4 councillor Sherry Bondy's request for tighter regulations after she received several complaints regarding proxy voting and the use of campaign signs during the 2018 election.

Bondy says proxy voting won't be included in the upcoming administrative report as there's currently an OPP investigation looking into accusations.

"Proxy voting is not included and that's kind of unfortunate because I do think we could close some of those loopholes as well. I believe the OPP are being very diligent. I believe they're crossing all their T's and dotting all their I's because I believe that lives will be impacted with the results of the investigations."

She says council voted unanimously in favour of the review.

"When we get the report people, members of our public, can become delegations and speak to it if they so desire and if any councillors saw other things that administration maybe didn't catch, I've always said I'm counting on an 'all eyes on deck approach' because I really want this to be a thorough investigation and thorough revamp of what happened."

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Essex councillor Sherry Bondy following a council meeting on September 3, 2019 (Photo by AM800's Zander Broeckel)

Bondy says, just like any bylaw, times change and policies need to be updated to reflect that.

"We do this, typically, with all of our bylaws when they're old, when they're outdated and I think that it's a really important move for democracy because I did see during the last election that there were some places where it didn't seem fair. All candidates need a level playing field and council showed that they're interested in having that too."

Meantime, mayor Larry Snively says the whole situation has been blown out of proportion.

Snively says he, himself, made a couple of violations while campaigning, but it's time to move on.

"There was a picture of myself on my election sign, it was done in front of the municipal building. The other one was I had an Essex shirt on. That was a mistake and I admit it, it was an honest mistake, but yet, the same councillor that complaining drove around with magnetic signs on the vehicle way before you were allowed to put signs out."

He says the proxy voters in question did nothing wrong.

"When I did the proxies I had a Portuguese interpreter with me. The Portuguese that was with me explained in Portuguese what a proxy was all about. They said, "No problem. We vote Larry." Senior levels of government do them the same way. There was no laws broken."

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Essex mayor Larry Snively following a council meeting on September 3, 2019 (Photo by AM800's Zander Broeckel)

Snively says councillors need to be working together rather than fighting among themselves.

"But there's the one that just doesn't want to work together. Plain and simple. I say it the way it is, either you get on board, there's a lot of good things happening in this municipality, great things happening in this town, we don't need this kind of hogwash."

Administration is expected to present the review to council sometime in the fall.

Essex CAO Chris Nepszy says a review is done after every municipal election, but this report will be far more thorough.