Councillor resigns from office
By-election upcoming in Pierceland
By Phil Ambroziak
It was nice while it lasted.
That’s how former Pierceland village councillor Mary Jane Harrison feels about her brief time in office. Fearing an impending legal battle she said she wasn’t prepared to fight, Harrison recently resigned from the role she held since the Oct. 24 municipal election.
“I’m not a councillor anymore,” Harrison reiterated when discussing her decision to give up the position.
Harrison’s election victory was being contested by former councillor Bill Frolick because of the fact Harrison is not a resident of the Village of Pierceland. Although she has been heavily involved in the community for many years, Harrison actually lives in the nearby RM of Beaver River and, according to provincial law, a person must live in a particular community for three months or more before he or she is allowed to seek a position on municipal council.
“I have since received some legal counsel,” Harrison continued. “I was told I could be fined up to $7,000. Since I’m a senior citizen, do I really want my old age pension to go to that? Of course, it would have been up to a judge to decide, but all I could think about was – if I was fined an inordinate amount – I wouldn’t be a happy camper.”
With the possibility of also having to pay court costs incurred by Frolick, Harrison said the idea of allowing the matter to proceed to court was too risky. The only regret she has about stepping down, however, is no longer being able to use her experience and skill-set to benefit the community as a whole.
“This is my community,” she said. “I have lived here for close to 40 years and I love it. I wanted to do the most I could for Pierceland. Even though it looks like that won’t happen now, I know when one door closes another door opens.”
Meanwhile, Frolick said Harrison’s decision was for the best.
“The law states you’re supposed to live in the municipality before you can run in an election,” he said. “I assume laws are made because people are supposed to follow them.”
Frolick, who has served on council for 12 of the past 15 years, was narrowly defeated by Harrison for the final council seat by 13 votes last fall. He received 115 votes to her 128. Harrison said she was aware of the laws pertaining to her eligibility when she decided to come forward as a candidate, but decided to let her name stand anyway. Election officials are not allowed to refuse nominations.
Harrison’s departure now means a by-election will have to be held to fill the vacant council seat. Frolick said he will not put his name forward as a candidate.
“In my heart, I feel the taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for this by-election,” Harrison concluded. “I have offered to pay for the full cost.”
According to the provincial ministry of government relations, the Local Government Election Act does indeed state municipal nominees must have resided in that municipality, or on land now in that municipality, for at least three consecutive months immediately preceding the date on which nomination papers are submitted.
While ministry officials could not provide any other examples where a similar infraction has taken place in Saskatchewan, they did note any election that does not adhere to the rules outlined in the Act would not be deemed valid.