The mayor of a southwestern Ontario town accused of violating the province’s Municipal Elections Act asserted his innocence on Wednesday and announced plans to stay in office despite at least one call for his resignation.
Provincial police have charged Essex, Ont. Mayor Larry Snively with improperly procuring proxy votes during the local election of 2018. The force said it launched the investigation after receiving an unspecified complaint shortly after the vote.
“I don’t think I did anything wrong,” said Snively, who said he wouldn’t comment any further about the case.
Snively is scheduled to appear in court on March 30th, where he’ll face one charge of procuring persons to vote in a municipal election when those persons were not entitled to do so. The charge falls under the Municipal Elections Act rather than the criminal code.
Police would not comment further on the nature of the allegations, but Essex Coun. Chris Vander Doelen said he believes the case emerged from proxy voting sheets that were improperly filled out.
The councillor said proxy sheets are used to allow someone to vote on another person’s behalf if they choose not to vote or are unable to cast a ballot themselves.
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Vander Doelen said the sheets would have been handed out to residents who declared that they didn’t plan on voting when candidates conducted door-to-door campaigning.
He said 22 of the mayor’s 28 proxy sheets have been called into question.
“I’m hoping this is just a case of sloppiness of people filling out these proxy sheets,” said Vander Doelen, who said he wanted the mayor to stay on during his court case.
“We still have our responsibilities, we still have a town to run.”
Another city councillor called for Snively to step down because of the charges.
“I believe the people of the town of Essex deserve to have a mayor in place that we can trust,” said Coun. Sherry Bondy. “He has to do what is morally right even though the charges haven’t come back and proven him guilty.”
The town of Essex said it had asked police to conduct an independent investigation back in October 2018, weeks after the election that saw Snively voted into the mayor’s office after a stint as a city councillor.
“From the beginning of the investigation, administration has co-operated fully with the OPP and will continue to co-operate as this matter proceeds before the courts,” the town said in a statement.
“The Town of Essex, and its electoral process, was not the subject of the investigation.”