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St. George’s election delay impacts staffing

By JORDAN PARKER Special to the Appalachian

ST. GEORGE’S – A nomination process error has delayed the municipal election in St. George’s and Mayor Danny Conway says the waiting has left the council unable to form a new budget or hire any new staff.

“All we’re required to do is ask for that extension if there’s an error in the process, and then the provincial Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment sets the process in play. Our sitting council has been instructed to stay out of the process,” said Conway.

“Our government decided to postpone the election to correct the issue, and we will do nomination day over.”

The postponement was first announced to the public via a post on the Town of St. George’s Facebook page on September 28. The town explained that following the municipal elections, the newly-elected council will fill the Town Manager position that was recently vacated.

“In the interim, we will be delegating duties of Town Manager to other staff, which may cause delays in certain things. So we are asking residents to be patient with us as we move through these trying times,” read the post.

Mayor Conway didn’t get into details, but said Town Manager Jocelyn Butt made an error and misinterpreted criteria for a nomination, leading to the postponement. She has resigned “of her own volition” after a difficult tenure, according to a Facebook post she wrote on the town page. The town has been without a permanent replacement since October 4.

Mayor Conway said the town staff and councillors have faced difficulties and criticism in their jobs from one individual in particular, but would not state who for the record.

“It was one person who made her position hard. She felt it was easier to get away and not deal with this individual anymore. He was relentless and constantly at her about things, and posted on social about her,” noted the mayor.

Conway said he is unaware of what error his former Town Manager and Returning Officer made and that he never asked. He was adamant her resignation was not due to the error.

“The reason hasn’t been made public, and it’s up to the provincial department if they want to publicize that. Their only advice was for us to ask for an extension and we followed through,” he said.

The Department of Municipal Affairs referred to Section 7 of the Municipal Elections Act, and stated that the town was free to go about its business.

“The current council in the Town of St. George’s has the full authority and responsibility to continue running the affairs of the town until a new council has been elected and sworn in,” a spokesperson wrote in an emailed statement from the department.

“If there are vacancies to be filled on council, the Minister will order a special election for the remaining positions in order to form a quorum and a council. Once the Minister issues the Special Elections Order then the municipality will be notified of the election date. The Order is expected to be issued in the coming days.”

With two councillors not seeking re-election and the Acting Town Clerk now covering multiple roles – including some Town Manager duties and upcoming Returning Officer training – the town is left incredibly short-handed. Conway wants to have the elections issue resolved soon.

“We have councillors looking to end their term, but they said they’d stay on 30 days. But this looks like it could run into late November. They’re putting their lives on hold,” noted Mayor Conway.

“Our Town Manager has resigned, and our Acting Town Clerk we got in June is doing multiple things. We need a budget done by year’s end, but we’ve been told to leave it for the new council. There’s just so much on hold because of this election process, and the new council faces a long process.”

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