Nfld. & Labrador

Come By Chance town council to be reactivated following semi-successful nomination day

The town council in Come By Chance will be reactivated following a nomination day on Tuesday that saw five residents step forward as candidates, though two vacancies remain.

Placentia Bay town has been without any elected leadership for nearly 4 months

Five Come By Chance residents, including one candidate who had her seat vacated last year because of an alleged residency rule violation, have stepped forward to help restore local leadership in the Placentia Bay community. (Town of Come by Chance/Facebook)

Come By Chance's town council will be reactivated following a nomination day that saw five residents — including one woman who was dismissed last year for an alleged violation of residency requirements — step forward as candidates, though two vacancies remain.

The town of just over 200 residents on Placentia Bay, on Newfoundland's southeast coast, has not had any elected leadership for nearly four months after the seven-member town council disintegrated amid controversy and dismissals following last September's general election.

A government-appointed administrator has been overseeing the affairs of the town since mid-March, and that will continue until the new council is sworn in, likely next week.

The five nominees who stepped forward Tuesday are Dave Boutcher, Carol Molloy, Mary Hodder, Nadine Baker and Trevor Hodder.

"I just want this community to hopefully get back to where it doesn't have to be in the public eye anymore because it's running properly and smoothly," said Trevor Hodder, a newcomer to municipal politics.

"It's been a great down. A great town to grow up in. It's a fortunate town. We have resources that other small towns don't. And we should be back to where we were in years past," he added.

Since the five town councillors will be acclaimed, an election scheduled for June 28 will not be necessary, though another call for nominations must be held within three months to fill the two remaining vacancies.

Molloy, meanwhile, is one of five town councillors whose seat was vacated in recent months. In her case, she was removed last fall because she did not meet residency requirements, town manager Colin Holloway told CBC News in February.

Keith Best, left, and Lew Baker are two of the four councillors in the Town of Come By Chance who had their seats vacated in early February for an alleged conflict of interest. They have appealed their dismissal to the Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

Under the Municipal Elections Act, a town councillor whose seat is vacated is prohibited from seeking re-election for a period of two years, but that doesn't apply in Molloy's situation, according to the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs.

"Vacation of a seat as a result of a councillor not meeting the residency requirement does not carry a two-year ban on running in an election, unlike the vacation of a seat due to conflict of interest," a department official wrote in a statement to CBC News.

Compliance with residency requirements of nominees is determined by the returning officer, said the statement.

"It is the department's understanding that Ms. Molloy now meets the residency requirements set out in the legislation."

Molloy has appealed her dismissal to Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court. She declined an interview request Wednesday and hasn't publicly said whether she plans to pursue that appeal. In a message on the town's Facebook page this week, she wrote that she's "looking forward to working with you all for the best interests of our town and fellow residents."

Come By Chance is located in a heavily industrialized area of the province, and grants in lieu of taxes swell the town's treasury to more than $1.2 million annually, making it one of the most prosperous small towns in the province.

But the normally quiet community has been making headlines for different reasons in recent months, highlighted by an implosion on council in February when four members — then mayor Keith Best, his son Matt Best, deputy mayor Ralph Slade and Lew Baker — were dismissed after an investigation determined they violated conflict of interest rules.

Local leadership is expected to be restored in the Town of Come By Chance as early as next week when a new council is sworn in. Five residents were nominated on Tuesday to the seven-seat town council, which means they will be acclaimed and another nomination call will be held in the coming weeks to fill the two remaining seats. The town has not had any elected representation for nearly four months. (Danny Arsenault/CBC)

All four former councillors hired a lawyer and launched an appeal of their dismissals, and lobbied unsuccessfully for a waiver of the two-year prohibition rule in order to take part in this week's nomination.

Kim Downey resigned in December after taking up residence in another community, while the last member of council, Kathy Paul, quit amid an uproar on Feb. 15 after delivering the report that recommended the seats of her four fellow councillors be vacated.

"It's sad to see different parts of the town going at each other," said Hodder, who said he stepped forward in hopes of "getting some semblance of normalcy back to the town."

After they are sworn in, the five town councillors will decide among themselves who will serve as mayor.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Terry Roberts is a reporter with CBC Newfoundland and Labrador, and is based in St. John’s. He previously worked for The Telegram, The Compass and The Northern Pen newspapers during a career that began in 1991. He can be reached by email at: Terry.Roberts@cbc.ca.

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