The provincial Supreme Court has ruled that a by-election must be held in Harrison Hot Springs.
Richard Shelley’s dual roles as a councillor and a volunteer firefighter were called into question by Andrew Baziuk, shortly after Shelley won the election on November 19. The matter has been before the courts since February 10, with a judgment made on Wednesday morning by Justice D.M. Masuhara.
After considering the current Harrison Hot Springs bylaws, and payments made to Shelley, the judge ruled that Shelley “was not qualified to hold office at the time he was elected.”
Shelley made a request to Fire Chief Don Labossiere on December 4 that his remuneration be donated to a charity of the fire department’s choosing. Also in December, Shelley told The Observer that he would not give up his role as a firefighter to retain his seat on council.
His passion for the community’s safety was not enough to win over the judge, though.
“Mr. Shelley’s request to the Fire Chief on December 4, 2011 to have his remuneration donated to a charity, while laudable, does not place him within the exception as set out in the Regulation because at the relevant time, which is at the time he was elected, Mr. Shelley had received and was entitled to monetary compensation.” Masuhara wrote in his ruling. “It is only by virtue of a payment schedule that he had not received his monetary compensation for his service from October 2011 before his request in December 2011. His request after the fact that his remuneration be donated to a charity cannot repair the fact that he was disqualified from holding office.”
Shelley has been a firefighter in Harrison since February 11, 2011.
Baziuk also asked the court to grant him the fourth council seat, if Shelley were to be disqualified. Baziuk also was a candidate for the Harrison Hot Springs municipal election, earning fifth place out of nine candidates. He was hoping that because he was the next popular choice, he could be appointed.
“I find that opportunity unpersuasive,” the judge wrote.
“In conclusion, I declare that Mr. Shelley was not qualified to hold office at the time he was elected, and that the office is vacant. I also declare that a by-election must be held to fill the vacant position of councillor.”
Baziuk said he is looking forward to the upcoming by-election.
“Campaigning starts soon,” he told The Observer Wednesday morning. “I’m relatively happy, it vindicates me that I did the right thing. Now I have to prove to people that I can do the job.”
But Shelley was “disappointed at the ruling,” he said Wednesday.
“I did what I could to put myself in the position to be allowed to hold office, but what can I say?” he said. “The law is the law and we have to go by the court’s ruling.”
But his time on council was not for naught, he said.
“I have such a huge appreciation for what our public officers do,” he said. “It’s a tremendous amount of work, and responsibility, and time away from family.”
“I just was really getting the ball going to really get involved and was making good headway,” he added.
And he won’t be running again in the impending by-election, he confirmed.
To do so, he would have to quit his role as a firefighter, something he is still not willing to do.
“I have made a commitment to the community in the fire department,” he said. “The community has invested a lot in my training.”
Harrison Hot Springs Mayor Leo Facio hadn’t heard the ruling when contacted by The Observer, and reserved comment.
CAO Ted Tisdale has not yet returned calls regarding the ruling, or to confirm how a by-election would be called. A call to the Local Government Department, which oversees municipal elections, also has not returned phone calls.