Procedural error leaves Coulter on the sidelines

Chilliwack school trustee Dan Coulter was sworn into office prematurely which had him watching from the sidelines at Tuesday's board meeting

Tuesday’s school board meeting was almost a comedy of errors.

After being prematurely sworn into office last week, newly elected Chilliwack school trustee Dan Coulter had to sit out of Tuesday’s board meeting.

But was that also a mistake?

According to section 137(1) of the Local Government Act, a candidate cannot be given their oath of office until the nine-day period for a judicial recount has passed following the official release of election results.

The City released the results on Dec. 2, which meant the earliest Coulter could be sworn in is Dec. 12.

“We did not realize this at the time, so we gave him his oath at the board meeting immediately following the election,” on Dec. 3, said board chair Walt Krahn.

City officials notified the school district of its mistake Tuesday.

But they, too, were mistaken.

According to section 135 of the Local Government Act, where no application for judicial recount has been received, a trustee who’s been declared elected may take the oath of office on the 10th day after the close of general voting.

There was no application for recount.

That means Coulter could have been sworn in at Tuesday’s meeting given the election closed Nov. 30.

“Byelections don’t happen often; this is new territory for us,” said Krahn. “In the zeal of getting rolling, sometimes things may go amiss.

“But we had to err on the side of caution.”

And so, Coulter spent the three-hour meeting not sitting around the table with fellow trustees, but watching from the sidelines in the public viewing area – not able to vote or even comment on the proceedings.

He said, while initially disappointed, it wasn’t a big deal.

“It’s one meeting,” he said. “I’ll be sitting in on a lot of meetings.”

Coulter will officially retake the oath on Dec. 13.

kbartel@theprogress.com

twitter.com/schoolscribe33

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