Saint John common council could soon be faced with some difficult decisions about the political future of Coun. Donnie Snook, who is in custody, facing eight child exploitation charges.
The New Brunswick Municipalities Act states Snook's seat will become vacant if he misses four straight meetings, unless he has permission from council.
Snook, who took vacation prior to his arrest on Jan. 9, has already missed three meetings and council's next regularly scheduled meeting is Monday night, the same day Snook is scheduled to have a bail hearing.
Sam Blue, who lives in Snook's Ward 3, hopes that decision isn't forced upon council.
'I would hope they wouldn't have to go through that decision process, that things can play out in a way that they don't have to get backed into that corner.'—Sam Blue, resident
"In addition to having to bear all these responsibilities that the councillors have, they also lost a co-worker right now, and they're probably grieving the same way the public would be grieving," said Blue.
"So I would hope they wouldn't have to go through that decision process, that things can play out in a way that they don't have to get backed into that corner," he said.
"It maybe is more of a decision for Donnie to make, and for the judicial decision to play out the way it plays out — hopefully not for too long."
Snook, 40, is charged with three counts of touching a child for a sexual purpose, one count of making child pornography, two counts of distribution of child pornography and two counts of possession.
Police seized computer equipment and child sexual abuse images during a search of Snook's Martha Avenue home, RCMP Cpl. Chantal Farrah has said.
The investigation continues and more charges are possible, Farrah said.
The Crown plans to object to the release of the second-term councillor and now-suspended youth ministry director.
Council is in a tight spot, said resident Morgan Lanigan.
Cutting ties with Snook in the midst of such serious allegations could have wider implications, he said.
"If council were to not accept that, is that a belief or a presumption of guilt already? I think that's one of the leading questions that has to be thought about," said Lanigan.
"We don't want to over inflame the process. I mean, there's already some question about whether Donnie Snook can get a fair trial in Saint John or not," he said, referring to recent comments made by Snook's defence lawyer, Dennis Boyle.
Mayor Mel Norton has declined to comment on the attendance rules.
Meanwhile, the Anglican Diocese of Fredericton is reviewing Snook's work history as director of the Saint John Inner City Youth Ministry, including a possible previous allegation against Snook, as well as a leave of absence he took several years ago.
"To my knowledge, there were no charges. I think the word that was used was 'allegation,'" Archdeacon Geoffrey Hall told CBC News.
"My understanding of what took place was that there weren’t any conclusions drawn – and it would have been for that reason that there was no follow up," he said.
"We’re just continuing to sort of look at our files and determine what the past has been."