Elections NB considered removing 'technically challenged' Saint John Harbour returning officer

New Brunswick's chief electoral officer considered removing the returning officer for the riding of Saint John Harbour about two weeks before last September's provincial election, the Court of Queen's Bench heard on Tuesday.

The incident was revealed in testimony by Tammy Dunlop who, as election clerk, held the number two position in the riding.

Dunlop was testifying in a court challenge launched by former Progressive Conservative candidate Barry Ogden.

Ogden is seeking an order overturning the election results in the riding, which Liberal Gerry Lowe won by just 10 votes.

Dunlop told the Saint John courtroom her boss, returning officer Pat McCaffrey, was "technically challenged."

She said he had difficulty using his laptop and email, and with photocopying and faxes, and left many of those tasks to her.

She said other Elections New Brunswick staff would contact her on issues because they could not reach McCaffrey by email.

"Mr. McCaffrey was a good delegator," said Dunlop.

CBC

She said Chief Electoral Officer Kim Poffenroth was concerned she (Dunlop) was doing both her own job and McCaffrey's and suggested she could replace the returning officer and someone else could be brought in to take on her responsibilities as election clerk.

Dunlop did not say how she responded to the suggestion, but McCaffrey remained in his position through election day and the recount that followed.

McCaffrey was not present Tuesday, but in a statement from an affidavit read to the court he is quoted as saying Dunlop took on "most of the technical and operational matters related to running the election."

Dunlop had worked previously in a federal election but had never worked in a provincial election before.

CBC

Ogden's team is alleging 78 instances of voting irregularities in the riding.

They include ineligible people voting in the riding, people voting twice, and several voting without presenting correct identification.

On Monday, the court heard Nathan Davis, the district training officer for the riding, resigned just prior to the election, as plans were being made by Elections New Brunswick to fire him.

'Makes you wonder'

Speaking to reporters after Tuesday's testimony, Ogden said Dunlop's testimony points to how irregularities can occur.

"The training officer and the district returning officer were both being looked at to being released," said Ogden. "Those are two of the top three people running the riding. So I guess that really makes you wonder about the voting and such in this riding."

The trial resumes Thursday when Lowe's lawyers are expected to call University of Toronto Prof. Peter Loewen as an expert witness. Loewen is with the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy.

Justice Hugh McLellan is presiding.