Ousted Chestermere mayor fights for his job back as voters go to the polls

Voters in the City of Chestermere go to the polls to choose a new mayor and five municipal councillors on Monday. . Carolyn Kury de Castillo/Global News

Residents of Chestermere, Alta., will head to the polls on Monday to potentially elect an entirely new council after the mayor and three councillors were fired by the province last year.

Former Mayor Jeff Colvin, as well as councillors Stephen Hanley, Mel Foat and Blaine Funk, were removed from council by Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver in December following an investigation that found the city was being mismanaged.

The city is now suing the men for allegations of improper spending. All four men have denied all of the allegations.

Colvin has said the lawsuit amounts to interference in the byelection by city officials. He also alleges the province is conspiring against council members.

In a social media post, he said McIver and the interim administrators are abusing their power to attempt to influence the byelection.

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“This is completely illegal during the writ period after an election has been called,” he said.

Colvin, Hanley, Foat and Funk are among the candidates on Monday’s ballot.

The investigation results prompted the appointment of a special administrator to oversee council.

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Residents of the commuter town, about 17 kilometres east of Calgary, are looking for stability after years of drama.

“I hope we get someone that’ll sort out the problems,” resident Ernst Weislogel said on Sunday.

“It’s a shame that this has happened, but hopefully, the new mayor can keep more control over it.”

Pat Reinigen, another resident, said the community needs people with experience.

“I’m hoping for some experience to come back and some new people in,” said Reinigen.

Lori Williams, an associate professor of political science at Mount Royal University, said there will still be many questions regardless of what happens with the race.

“I guess we will see if this resonates with the citizens who are voting in the byelection,” Williams said, noting how some might have questions about ethics, transparency and accountability.

“(They might say) we want to be able to run our municipality in a way that is beneficial for the citizens. We don’t want any more of the drama, therefore, we are going to vote for someone else.”

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Marshall Chalmers, who served as mayor before Colvin, is also seeking re-election for the top job, along with another former councillor Chris Steeves and Shannon Dean.

There are 23 people seeking one of five councillor positions, with the sixth currently filled by Ritesh Narayan.

Three councillors — Sandy Johal-Watt, Shannon Dean and Ritesh Narayan — were not dismissed by McIver.

Residents will vote throughout the day Monday at the Chestermere Recreation Centre.

In a statement to Global News, Ministry of Municipal Affairs spokesperson Heather Jenkins said the ministry will not speculate on the outcome of the election.

When the province released an inspection report of Chestermere’s finances, Jenkins said McIver had issued two binding directives to the city.

She said the directives require the city to report on its plan to address each of the inspection report’s 94 recommendations or explain why action wasn’t taken on each recommendation.

“The city is expected to comply with the directives,” Jenkins said.

“Once council quorum has been restored following the byelection, the city’s plan to address the recommendations in the inspection report must be discussed in an open session of council and approved by council resolution.”


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