Windsor

With a fall election, Essex councillors struggle with plan to replace resigned mayors' seat 

Essex town council is weighing options to fill its mayoral seat as Larry Snively resigns from his post after pleading guilty to violating Ontario's Election Act this month. Councillors are left to work out a path forward for the seat, deciding between calling a byelection, or appointing someone to the position.

2018 mayoral runner up says he's ready to 'jump in' the role

The Essex town council will begin to explore options to fill the mayoral vacancy come Monday. The empty seat comes as Larry Snively (top row, center) resigns following a guilty plea of 'procuring' ineligible voters to cast ballots during the town's October 2018 election. (Town of Essex)

Essex town council is weighing options to fill its mayoral seat as Larry Snively resigns from his post after pleading guilty to violating Ontario's Election Act this month.

Councillors are left to work out a path forward for the seat, deciding between calling a byelection or appointing someone to the position.

The vacant seat comes less than a year before a municipal election will take place, potentially complicating the process.

"It's very political now, right. With an election right around the corner everybody is jockeying for a position," said Ward 4 Coun. Sherry Bondy. 

Bondy has put forward the name of Ron Rogers, who was the 2018 runner up for the mayoral seat. She calls his appointment the "most logical option." She said choosing someone who didn't run for the position would be "ethically wrong."

Sherry Bondy, Ward 4 councillor in the Town of Essex, says moving the deputy mayor into the mayor's seat could create more vacancies and more disruptions. (Amy Dodge/CBC)

"He is more than competent and capable of chairing the meetings for the next nine months and then it doesn't really give anyone an unfair advantage going into the fall election," said Bondy.

Last week Snively pleaded guilty to "procuring" ineligible voters to cast ballots during the Ontario town's October 2018 municipal election.

Bondy said while she is planning to run for mayor in the fall 2022 election, she does not want to be appointed to the position.

The councillor said she hopes the solution can be decided upon in the "most fair and least disruptive way," something Coun. Morley Bowman agrees with.

"There's so many things happening in the community. Development is moving forward very quickly and we certainly don't want to inhibit that in any way," he said.

Rogers wants to 'jump in'

Ron Rogers ran for Essex mayor in the October 2018 municipal election. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

Rogers told CBC News he would 'absolutely' be interested in taking the seat, but wouldn't say if he intends to run in the 2022 election.

"I would like to lead council best I could," said Rogers, who has served on various municipal councils in the past.

"Certainly there must be some issues that are looking for solutions quickly, and I would just jump in with both feet and certainly look at council and administration for guidance and background on a lot of the issues," he continued.

Appointment from outside could be 'unsettling'

University of Windsor political science professor Lydia Miljan said that when it comes to situation the council finds itself in, "there's no clear path forward."

"I think it would be a big distraction to have a byelection at this time. So It does make sense just on a practical matter given just how little time is left in this mandate to appoint an interim mayor," she continued.

Miljan's opinion is that the deputy mayor should fill the vacancy, adding that's what the role is for. She said appointing someone from outside of council doesn't seem like the right move.

Lydia Miljan is a political science professor at the University of Windsor. She says while a path forward is up in the air for the vacancy, Miljan said the council is now in a good position to move forward in restoring integrity, adding that Snively's resignation is a positive step forward. (CBC News)

"It's so late in the game … they're probably not up to speed on all the files. Having somebody who hadn't been on council for the last three years join as the top, I mean it would be one thing if they joined as a councillor, but joining as mayor would really be too unsettling," she said.

Essex Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche has indicated he intends to run for mayor in the 2022 election.

Essex council is scheduled to meet Monday, and a motion to vacate the mayor's seat will be put forward.

If that motion passes there will be a second meeting, likely a week after, where the clerk will offer options for what council can then do.

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