Essex Mayor Larry Snively resigns
Last week he pleaded guilty to an Ontario Elections Act violation
In a letter addressed to town residents, town council, and the municipal clerk Essex Mayor Larry Snively resigned from his position, effective today.
"I wish to note that while this decision is being made with regret I have made the decision both freely and voluntarily," he said in the letter.
Last week Snively pleaded guilty to "procuring" ineligible voters to cast ballots during the Ontario town's October 2018 municipal election. Snively was fined $10,000 plus applicable costs, and has 180 days to pay.
Snively won the 2018 mayoral race by 117 votes, with 2,261 ballots cast in his favour, according to the official results. Runner-up Ron Rogers, among four mayoral candidates, secured 2,144 votes.
However, days after the election, Essex OPP began investigation after the Town of Essex received two official complaints of proxy ballots being signed without the consent of the electors.
Last May, Essex council agreed to tighten its proxy rules, which allows one person to vote on behalf of another, in response to the allegations against Snively.
Friday in a media release, Snively told Essex council he intended to serve out the remainder of his term, but won't run in the 2022 municipal election.
CBC News reached out to Snively and he had no comment.
What happens now
Ward 3 Coun. Steve Bjorkman was relieved to hear that Snively decided to resign.
"I believe it is the right step and it allows us as a council to move forward without the encumbrance of having somebody who has pled guilty to an election charge," he said.
Likely council's first order of business at Monday's meeting would have been asking Snively to resign, according to Bjorkman.
Bjorkman said when the allegations first came out, he was surprised something like that would happen in his town. He said there wasn't much he and other councillors could do until the investigation was over, but it didn't hinder council in its work.
"A lot of great things have happened in this town in the last three years, and now the verdict has been read. The plea was put forward and the correct steps, I believe, have now happened, but it did not stop us from doing our job," Bjorkman said.
Essex council meets on Monday. That's when Deputy Mayor Richard Meloche said there will be a motion to vacate the mayor's seat, based off his resignation.
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 — either appoint someone as mayor or have a byelection.
Meloche said byelections are expensive and would require all residents in every ward the opportunity to vote. It would also then leave another spot open, if someone on council won.
"I think it's advantageous to appoint, just to save anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000. That's my guess to run a byelection," Meloche said.
Anyone on council can be appointed to mayor.
Meloche said he does plan to run for mayor in the upcoming October election. He wanted to run for mayor after he retired, which he did in November.
"It's a very demanding job and if you want to do it right it takes a full time perspective of your attention," he said.
Essex, along with every other town in the county, has two seats on Essex county council. The mayor and deputy mayor of the town of Essex were in those roles. Without the mayor, there is a spot open but it can be filled by other council members.
"There's a proviso in the municipal act that an appointee from any of our councils can represent the absent member of county council to be represented at the table," said Gary McNamara, Warden for Essex County.
Essex County council is scheduled to meet again on Jan.19.