Aftergood resigns as alderman, will run again

Ald. Margot Aftergood – whose campaign was at the centre of voting irregularities in the civic election – has resigned, after the city agreed to pay some of her legal fees.

Ald. Margot Aftergood – whose campaign was at the centre of voting irregularities in the civic election – has resigned, after the city agreed to pay some of her legal fees.

Ward 10 Timeline
Oct. 18 - Margot Aftergood elected Ward 10 alderman by 138 votes

Oct. 19 - Police called in to look at possible voting fraud in Ward 10, involving 1,266 mail-in ballots

Oct. 20 - Aftergood says campaign requested mail-in ballots and husband rented postal box where they were sent

Oct. 21 - Chief returning officer says there isn't sufficient reason for a recount

Oct. 25 - Aftergood sworn in, despite calls from some colleagues to step down

Oct. 28 - Defeated alderman Diane Danielson requests judicial review of vote, judge releases list of those who requested mail-in ballots

Nov. 1 - Police execute search warrant at home of MLA Hung Pham and seize computers, Pham on Ward 10 review witness list

Nov. 17 - Judge allows ballot boxes to be opened

Nov. 29 - Aftergood resigns, as judicial review is about to begin

Her decision came the same day a judicial review into the voting problems in Ward 10 was to begin.

"It became clear to me even once I successfully defended against all the allegations filed in court against me and my campaign team, a cloud would hang over my victory," Aftergood said. "And as such, I would not be properly able to serve the residents of Ward 10.

"I would like to say, once again, that neither I nor my husband did anything wrong."

In an out-of-court settlement, the city of Calgary, a co-defendant in the case, agreed to pay some of Aftergood's legal fees – estimated at more than $100,000 – if she resigned her council seat.

Aftergood says she will run in the byelection.

It is now up to former alderman Diane Danielson, who lost to Aftergood by 138 votes, to decide whether to continue with the judicial review. She will make public that decision no later than Tuesday morning, when the review reconvenes.

However, with Aftergood's resignation, there technically is no election result to challenge.

The city was named in the initial challenge because it held the election and Aftergood was a duly elected officer. Chief solicitor Brand Inlow says he was instructed to make the offer on behalf of the city, but wouldn't say whether that instruction came from administration or the political side.

"I don't think there was any public interest to be advanced by having a long, drawn-out trial. One result of which, there may have been a byelection anyway," Inlow said.

Danielson had challenged the result of the election on the basis of 1,266 mail-in ballots that were sent to the same rented postal box.

The city's returning officer discovered a problem with 851 of those ballots that were returned, after election workers noticed that 691 had been rejected for an identical error and had similar handwriting. None of the ballots in question was counted.

Police are also investigating the ballots, and that investigation will continue.

The 1,266 ballots were requested over the internet and sent to a postal box rented by Aftergood's husband and campaign manager, David Aftergood.

The Local Authorities Election Act says a person can't request a ballot in the name of someone else.

The mail-in ballots have three parts: the ballot is inside a sealed envelope, which along with the eligibility statement is placed in a second sealed envelope. That way election officials can determine whether the ballot is valid, but don't see the ballot itself.

Danielson's motion, filed with the court, said they would call as witnesses 30 electors who had completed ballots returned, but who hadn't requested them. As well, five electors who allegedly requested ballots, and then attended a voting station to vote, were also going to be called.

The motion included the allegation that David Aftergood "directly or indirectly exerted undue influence on electors in Ward 10."

As part of their investigation, police executed a search warrant at the home of Conservative MLA Hung Pham, seizing computers. Pham said they were looking for the computers on which the mail-in ballots were requested, and that the seized computers belong to his brother.

Pham, re-elected in Calgary-Montrose last week, said he was out of the country when the mail-in ballots were requested.

The case drew attention to the ties between municipal and provincial politics in that northeast corner of the city. David Aftergood was involved in his wife's campaign, and a former president of the Calgary-Montrose Conservative riding association in the late 1990s, and sat on its nomination committee this year.

Danielson's husband Art was the Liberal candidate in Calgary-Montrose, running unsuccessfully against Pham for a second time.

Margot Aftergood has also been a member of Pham's riding association. She was the returning officer for Calgary-Montrose when her husband was the president of the riding association, and resigned as the returning officer for Calgary-Mountain View after getting elected to council.

City council will hold a special meeting Tuesday to discuss Aftergood's resignation. A byelection must be held within 90 days, and will likely be scheduled in February.

"I think Mrs. Aftergood has made a decision in keeping with probably her conscience and understanding it was probably in the best interest of herself," Mayor Dave Bronconnier said. "She's made that decision. City council's job now is to move forward and have a byelection as quickly as possible."