Essex Council Divided Over Whether Mayor Should Stay or Step Down

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Some members of Essex town council are divided over whether or not Mayor Larry Snively should continue to serve or step down.

Ontario Provincial Police announced on February 26 that Snively was being charged with misuse of a voter proxy in the 2018 municipal election.

Snively, 65, addressed council Monday night and made his first public comments since being charged by the OPP. He told council that he has no plans to resign as mayor, but does plan to step down from the town's police services board while he fights the charge.

Ward One Councillor Morley Bowman, said he's still comfortable with Snively being the mayor, even though he has been charged.

Bowman said he expects Snively to finish out his term.

"I would just let it take its course and when the time comes, the decisions will be made and it will be dealt with at that time," he said. "So it's a process just as anything else that would happen and we certainly should follow that."

Bowman adds if he were in Snively's position, he would stay on as mayor.

The OPP began investigating in October 2018 after several complaints were received of proxy ballots being signed without proper consent.

Proxy ballots are used to give someone permission to vote on behalf of another person.

Ward Two Councillor Kim Verbeek, said she would have supported Snively if he decided to step away. 

She hopes the charge is not a distraction for the municipality.

"There is a cloud over Essex council again," said Verbeek. "There was a lot of distrust in the last council and we've worked really hard to rebuild the reputation of this council and I don't want to see anything happen to that."

Verbeek said she had concerns with Snively being on the town's police services board, but is glad that issued was resolved after he announced he would step down from the position.

But she does believe the charge is serious.

"The police felt our electoral event was compromised, so I would say those are very serious," said Verbeek. "Was it one proxy that was fudged or 100, it doesn't matter right.  If the police believe that our electoral event was compromised, than they felt they needed to pursue this."

Last week, councillor Sherry Bondy called for the mayor to resign, while 2018 mayoral runner-up Ron Rogers also wanted him to resign and step down from the town's police services board.