Members of Sundridge council have taken the first step to replacing former Coun. Stephen Rawn by declaring his seat vacant. Rawn announced his resignation at the May 12 meeting when he told his colleagues he and his wife had sold the family home and were moving to their cottage in nearby Strong Township. Staff now have the job of coming back to council at Wednesday’s regular meeting with options on how to fill the vacancy. The Ontario Municipal Act allows for two methods.
One is to go the expensive route and hold a byelection for the seat. The 2018 municipal election cost just more than $15,000. Alternatively, council can appoint a person who expresses an interest in the seat which is a process that costs very little to carry out. The cost in this instance consists of whatever time staff put into identifying people interested in the seat and the advertising expense promoting the vacancy. Additionally, the expression of interest option gives council the choice to ask people who ran in the last election and didn't win if they now would like to sit on council, or ask the population at large to write in indicating their willingness to sit on council. Gord Furlong was the only candidate who campaigned for a seat who didn't win, garnering 100 votes. Council appears to be leaning in the direction of asking people to apply for the seat in writing. Mayor Lyle Hall said the last time a council resignation took place was almost 10 years ago when a councillor moved out of the area. Hall recalls people interested in the seat were asked to submit applications. Eight individuals applied for the position. All eight were interviewed by the entire council of the day. Members of council liked the application and interview approach. Hall said if this was the route council eventually takes, there might be merit in shortlisting the list of applicants in the event a large number of people apply. He compared the process to what staff does when advertising a municipal position. However, Coun. Steve Hicks said the simple act of applying doesn't guarantee the person will be interviewed, although there could be an exception. “If eight amazing people apply, then let's interview eight amazing people,” Hicks said. He added if the applications are short of being amazing then a shortlisting of names can occur. Council also hinted at how the interview process may be carried out regardless of the number of applicants. Hicks preferred all the interviews be carried out in a public forum and rationalized his position by saying “if they can't answer questions in a public forum, then maybe this isn't for them.” But what would be decided behind closed doors is the final selection of the candidate, since council members would be discussing individual performances. Council has until July 13 to fill the vacancy.Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.
Rocco Frangione, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The North Bay Nugget