Donnie Snook resigns from Saint John council

Saint John Coun. Donnie Snook, who is facing eight child exploitation charges, has resigned from council, Mayor Mel Norton has confirmed.

Byelection will be held to fill seat left vacant by councillor facing 8 sex-related charges

Donnie Snook, 40, has not entered any pleas on the three charges of sexually touching a child, or five child pornography-related charges against him. (CBC)

Saint John Coun. Donnie Snook, who is facing eight child exploitation charges, has resigned from council, Mayor Mel Norton has confirmed.

"This was a result of a personal matter for Coun. Snook," Norton said in a statement issued late Thursday afternoon.

"I thank Coun. Snook for dealing with this matter in a final and timely manner," he said.

Snook, 40, is charged with three counts of touching a child for a sexual purpose, one count of making child pornography, two counts of distributing child pornography, and two counts of possession.

The second-term councillor and now-suspended director of the Saint John Inner City Youth Ministry has not yet entered any pleas.

"It has been an honour for me to serve as a member of common council for the past four-and-a-half years," Snook's one page, hand-written letter states.

"Regrettably, due to the current circumstances I find myself in, I am no longer able to continue in my role as a councillor in the City of Saint John, representing Ward 3," it states.

"Please accept my best wishes to each of you as you continue to serve your community. Respectfully, Donnie Snook."

Snook was arrested by the RCMP’s Internet Child Exploitation Unit on Jan. 9 and remains in custody at the Saint John Regional Correctional Centre.

A bail hearing is scheduled for Jan. 21 when the Crown expects to call three witnesses and present what has been described as "technical evidence."

Most bail hearings are subject to a publication ban on evidence to protect the right of the accused to a fair trial.

Investigation continues

Police searched Coun. Donnie Snook's Martha Avenue home on Jan. 9. (John Van Dusen/CBC)

Police seized computer equipment and child sexual abuse images during a search of Snook's Martha Avenue home, RCMP Cpl. Chantal Farrah has said.

"This investigation is still very much ongoing," she said on Thursday, urging anyone with information that would assist police to contact the RCMP or the Saint John Police Force.

"Our investigators with the RCMP technological crime unit are going through the evidence that was seized and analyzing the images" in an effort to identify the children involved, Farrah said.

More charges are possible, she has said.

Farrah could not speculate how much longer the investigation, which began in Toronto in 2011, will take. "It's going to take the time that's going to be required," she said.

The mayor said he received Snook's letter of resignation from his defence lawyer.

"The letter has been forwarded to the common clerk and staff will follow procedures regarding vacancies as outlined in the Municipalities Act," Norton said.

Under the act, council has two months to officially declare a vacancy by way of resolution.

The clerk then has 10 days to notify the municipal electoral officer, who holds a byelection to fill the vacancy.

The next regularly-scheduled round of municipal byelections across the province will be on May 13.

The other members of council have been notified, said Norton.

Snook's lawyer Dennis Boyle said he was visiting his client in jail when he received the resignation letter.

"He asked me if I would do him a favour and he passed me a piece of paper and said, 'This is my resignation, would you see that that gets into the hands of Mayor Norton?' I called Mayor Norton and Mayor Norton just said, 'I could pick that up tomorrow morning.'

"So he came to my office yesterday morning. I said good morning to him, gave him the piece of paper, the resignation, and he said, ‘Thank you’ and it was over," said Boyle.

Snook was elected to council in 2008 and re-elected in May 2012 with 2,303 votes.

He was one of only two incumbents who successfully sought re-election.

He has served in Ward 3, which includes part of the south end, lower west side and part of the east side.