But council, by virtue of deadlock, refuses to accept, leaving status in limbo
By Tristan Marks
West Lincoln Coun. Christopher Coady resigned his seat last week, but half of the remaining council didn’t want to hear it
In the end – by virtue of a 3-3 tie vote – council failed to agree on any direction, voting down a resolution to accept the resignation and a second motion brought by Administration/Finance/Fire Committee chair Coun. Mike Rehner to ask Coady to withdraw his resignation.
Coady, who represented Ward 2, tendered his resignation from West Lincoln Council last week. He stated in his letter that he and his wife decided they would not be returning to Ontario from British Columbia along with apologies for “the additional work” his decision would cause.
Rehner opened the discussion for the first resolution by noting that the Township had to deal with a by-election in the previous term. He said it cost West Lincoln a lot to run the byelection, an unexpected cost he would prefer to avoid this time around.
“Couldn’t we ask the mayor to contact Councillor Coady and see if he can participate through Zoom?” Rehner asked, later noting that councillors do not need to be present with the Township’s current operating procedures.
Coun. Jason Trombetta asked what the next steps should be in the occurrence of a mid-term resignation from council.
Clerk Joanne Scime explained that the town has two main options to filling Coady’s vacancy:
• a byelection, which would require a bylaw to be passed within 60 days to initiate the process, or;
• by appointment.
“The legislation is silent towards appointment,” said Scime referring to the lack of guidelines in the municipal act for that option.
Coun. William Reilly returned to Coun. Rehner’s suggestion of finding out if Coady was willing to participate in Zoom calls and suggested introducing a motion to do so.
He also asked if Bylsma had tried to reach out to Coady. Bylsma answered no, and when asked said he’d rather, “let it be”.
“A representative needs to be there for his constituents,” Bylsma said. “It’s paramount to me.”
Coun. Rehner had staff confirm that Coady would be able to continue serving, so long as he owned property in the municipality. Furthermore, Coady’s electronic presence would count as him being present at meetings, according to the current procedures.
However, Coun. Harold Jonker pointed out that Coady’s Wellandport property is currently up for sale.
“We are in a situation where we have to accept his resignation or not,” Jonker said. “His property is up for sale. I think we accept his resignation and wait for a report.”
After the vote to accept died in a 3-3 vote, Bylsma sought an understanding from dissenters: Rehner, Coun. William Reilly and Trombetta.
“Our residents need an explanation as to why these councillors fought so far hard to bring back a councillor who has already moved and is selling his property,” said Bylsma, who also noted Coady’s frequent absences from council and committee meetings in 2020.
Reilly defended his decision by saying the town had an opportunity.
“I felt Councillor Rehner had a creative idea. I had the perspective that there might still be a way to rectify this situation,” said Reilly. “Coady has property, maybe he doesn’t know the rules and we can inform him.”
Debate continued until Coun. Cheryl Ganann called a point of order due to the discussion occurring outside of a motion.
Reilly then requested the clerk write up a new motion, which directed staff to contact Coady and see if he was willing to reverse his resignation, and, if not, would trigger the procedures for his replacement.
“It’s important that Coady is informed that he can still serve if he has property in the municipality,” Reilly said.
When discussion began for the new motion, Ganann criticized the idea that merely owning property in West Lincoln was enough for Coady to fulfill his duties.
“I think we’ve forgotten that there’s a lot more than just owning property or zooming in,” said Ganann, who listed the official duties and responsibilities of a councillor.
“There’s so much more that you must do to represent people than you can from a province on the other side of the country.”
Ultimately, Reilly’s motion also failed with a tied vote from Bylsma, Ganann and Jonker voting against.
In an email after the meeting, Reilly said he will change his vote, “For the record, I will be accepting Councillor Christopher Coady’s resignation at Council on Monday Oct. 26, 2020.”