'What the heck is going on?': Beaumont councillor asked to resign over unpaid utility bill

A newly elected Beaumont councillor says she was "blindsided" after being asked to resign a month into the job by her fellow council members due to an unpaid utilities and property tax bill.

Sabrina Powers said the unpaid bill was an honest mistake — her husband simply forgot to pay it

Sabrina Powers was asked to resign as a Beaumont councillor after it was found she had an outstanding utility bill. (Supplied/Sabrina Powers)

A newly elected Beaumont councillor says she was "blindsided" after being asked to resign a month into the job by her fellow council members due to an unpaid utilities and property tax bill. 

Sabrina Powers was elected on Oct. 16. On Nov. 8, the unpaid bill was unearthed during a meeting she had with the town's chief administrative officer. According to the Local Authorities Elections Act, an unpaid bill means she should have never qualified to run in the election, let alone win a seat in the town eight kilometres south of Edmonton, Powers told CBC News. 

The unpaid bill was an honest mistake — Powers said her husband simply forgot to pay it. 

"My husband takes care of all the bills. He thought he was all caught up. We've been together for 22 years now. I'm not going to nag him every month asking if he paid every single bill every month. This is just that one incident where we missed it," Powers said.

"And I'm not blaming him, I should have triple checked, and I know that. I'm not upset and I'm not mad at him. And he feels really bad about it."

She did not say how late the payment was or the amount, only that it was "above the minimum, for sure." Powers paid the bill immediately, but was told she had three choices in resolving the issue: she could willingly resign, bring it to council and they could choose to dismiss it, or it could be brought before a Court of Queen's Bench judge.

Instead, Powers said council chose a fourth option: to request her resignation. She opted to resign on Nov. 17. A byelection will now be held.

"I thought, if all of your colleagues ask you to resign, what would you do? So that's kind of where it's at," she said.

"For sure I felt blindsided. I really, really did. By council asking for my resignation, I don't fault them for it. They obviously have their reasons and I wasn't privy to those reasons, but it wasn't necessarily an option that was presented or that should have been presented."

John Stewart, Beaumont's newly elected mayor, said he was shocked by the discrepancy too. 

"This situation that we're in really caught us by surprise. No one saw it coming," he said. 

The town of Beaumont does not have rules in place to review the eligibility criteria of city councillors once they are elected. Under the Local Authorities Elections Act, councillors have to sign an affidavit on nomination day declaring they meet all the criteria for the job of an elected official.

If they do not meet all the conditions, they have to resign, Stewart said.

"This isn't about Sabrina," he said. "This really comes down to what the process is." 

Stewart said the date of a byelection to fill Powers's seat will be debated at the next city council meeting on Nov. 28. The byelection will cost Beaumont residents $10,000, he said.

There is nothing preventing Powers from running again, Stewart added.

A "serial entrepreneur," Powers said she might just return to running her three businesses with her husband. 

Powers said she has "utmost respect" for the current town council, but doesn't believe asking her to resign was a good decision for the town.

"It's so weird. Just right from the start, right up until now, I'm just going 'Oh my God, like what the heck is going on?'"

With files from Anna Desmarais