Opinion| City Requires Bylaw to Address Council Vacancies

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When a vacancy occurs during a term of council, the Ontario Municipal Act gives council the choice of filling the vacancy by the appointment of a person who has consented to accept the office if appointed or by holding a byelection.
Our council has just decided the way to fill the Ward 6 seat vacated by Ross Ross Romano, who recently won the byelection to replace David Orazietti as our representative in the Ontario Legislature, is by appointment.
Coun. Lou Turco was a lone voice calling for a byelection.
Ordinarily, I prefer election by ward residents rather than appointment by councillors when a local council seat becomes vacant.
But considering there would be only about a year remaining in the vacancy if a byelection were held, I believe council made the right decision.
After all, these are not good times for the city and the $50,000 or so that it would take to hold a byelection can be put to good use elsewhere.
We have gone down the road of filling a vacancy on council previously and have gone both ways, byelection and appointment.
And no matter which way is chosen, there are going to be some people who are upset.
So I have a suggestion to cover this in the future.
Council should pass a bylaw setting a date within the four-year election cycle as to when a vacancy would be filled by byelection or appointment.
Terms are for four years so I would suggest the cut-off should be at either the 24- or 27-month mark.
If a vacancy occurrs before that mark, it would be filled by a byelection; if it occurred after that mark, it would be filled by appointment.
Council also should include in the bylaw that the appointment process allows for people to apply city-wide, as is the case in the present appointment process for Ward 6.
Councillors Steve Butland and Susan Myers had suggested that council simply appoint Ozzie Grandinetti, a former councillor who finished third in the 2014 civic election.
But the majority of council wanted to go city-wide.
I agree with council’s decision in this regard as people do not have to run in the wards in which they live in regular civic elections. As well, they would have no one to choose from in the ward if the councillors in the ward had been acclaimed.
However, if there are others, as in the case at hand, councillors of the day can select a candidate from the ward if they so choose. All I am suggesting here is that they nail down in a bylaw whether the appointment is to be from the ward or citywide.
I believe by passing a bylaw laying out when it would be byelection or appointment and that the appointment process would allow applicants citywide, that council would relieve itself and the community of any unrest when it comes to the filling of a vacant seat.
When a seat becomes vacant, all the city clerk then would have to do is point to the bylaw, the date being the determining factor as to whether the vacancy is to be filled by byelection or appointment and whether it is to be open citywide.
Presently councillors will be making their selection from among 10 names before them Monday night, including that of Grandinetti and Wanda McQueen, who ran in the ward in the last election finishing only 12 votes apart, and Luke Dufour, who ran in Ward 4. Others who have put their names forward are Sam Cistaro, Heather Cook, Dustin Grondin, Michael Jalak, Nancy Pinelli, Luca Robibaro and Dean Wade.
City Clerk/Deputy CAO Malcolm White said council will nominates one or more names for consideration from the list and then a vote will be held, with the nominee who receives seven or more votes being appointed. If no one receives a majority, the nominee who receives the least votes is dropped and another vote is held, with this continuing until one of the candidates receives a majority.
“If we end up with two nominees and a tie vote (6-6), the names will be put into a hat and I will draw one of them to decide the matter,” he said.
This leads me to one more suggestion for the bylaw I have proposed.
The deadline for people to put their names forward was Tuesday at 4:30. Councillors received the names of candidates and information about them in their agenda package on Friday with the vote to be held at its regular meeting on Monday.
I would suggest the bylaw state that council make the appointment at a special meeting, which could be on the Monday between the two meetings that would follow the deadline for applications.
This would not only give councillors more time to digest the information they have received about the candidates, but also would allow for the candidates to appear before them to make their case, just as they would to the electorate in a debate if a byelection were to be held.
I also believe council should give some thought to whether all those who put their names forward should be considered as nominees, rather than council choosing the nominees from the list.
Doug Millroy can be reached at dmillroy@gmail.com.

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