Beaumont councillor’s resignation over unpaid bill triggers by-election

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WATCH ABOVE: Just a few weeks after a municipal election was held in Beaumont, and a by-election is being planned to fill a vacated seat. Sarah Kraus explains the unusual reason why – Nov 19, 2017

It has been just over a month since Albertans went to the polls to elect their municipal representatives, but in a small community just south of Edmonton, residents will have to cast their votes once again due to a technicality that has caused a town councillor to vacate her position.

Sabrina Powers was elected as a councillor for the Town of Beaumont in the Oct. 16 election. She was one of seven people elected to the council.

A selfie of several Beaumont town councillors. Credit: Sam Munckhof-swain

On Friday, Powers posted to Facebook that it was “with deep regret and heartbreak to announce my resignation as your Town Councillor.”

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She said it was brought to her attention on Nov. 8 that she owed money to the Town of Beaumont.

“The outstanding bill was for unpaid utility bills and property taxes (ironic.. I know..).

“This was 100 [per cent] an honest mistake, and there were no malicious intentions about this. I am human, and mistakes happen.”

Powers said the bills were paid immediately, but it was too late. She said according to the Local Authority Elections Act, all money owed to a municipality must be paid in full by nomination day, which was Sept. 16.

Sabrina Powers filing her papers to run for the Town of Beaumont council on nomination day. Sabrina Powers Facebook page

The Beaumont candidate’s handbook says if a candidate owes more than $50 in taxes or more than $500 in utilities (or other money owed to the municipality) and are overdue by more than 90 days, they are ineligible to run in an election.

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“In light of this information, I should never have qualified to run in the election, let alone win a seat on town council,” she said.

She said she had three options:

  1. Take the issue to council, which could dismiss it, but would have a three-year window in which to revisit the issue
  2. Take it to the Court of Queen’s Bench and have a judge decide (Powers said she could cover associated costs)
  3. Submit a resignation, resulting in a by-election

“The mayor and council members have requested my immediate resignation, despite the other available options that would leave no cost to you, the taxpayers,” she said.

“I do understand and accept the consequences of my mistake, and I hope that you accept my utmost apologies that this happened. I apologize for the burden and inconvenience it will cause all of you as a result of a by-election, and I hope you can understand that mistakes do happen and this was never my intention.”

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The town posted a notification on its website on Friday, announcing the by-election.

“It is unusual that we find ourselves in the position of having to hold a by-election at this early stage of our term of office; however, we wish Ms. Powers all the best,” Mayor John Stewart said in a statement.

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The town said details on the date and process would be released in the future.

Ironically, Powers isn’t even the person who pays the bills in her household.

“Sadly, she does not even take care of the bills at home. I do,” wrote her husband Warren Powers.

“So the only thing she did wrong was trust me that they were OK and up to date. It was 100 [per cent] my oversight and unfortunately she is having to pay the price. It is truly unfortunate.”

The Powers family. Sabrina Powers Facebook page.

Powers said she has always taken pride in holding herself accountable, which is why she posted a detailed explanation. She also apologized to her former council colleagues for putting them in a difficult position, and to the 1,590 people who cast their votes for her.

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“I am sorry for disappointing you. I was looking forward to representing you and making positive changes in our community.”

Global News reached out to Powers for more information, but she was not available to speak on Sunday. The mayor of Beaumont was also not available.

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