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Councillor challenged for role as fire fighter
The election may be over, but a legal issue over candidacy is still brewing in Harrison Hot Springs.
Newly-elected Councilor Richard Shelley is being challenged by failed council candidate Andrew Baziuk, for what he's calling a lack of disclosure regarding Shelley's position as a firefighter with the Village's fire department.
"I have nothing against him being a firefighter," Baziuk told The Observer this week. "But you can't be both (a firefighter and a councilor)."
Baziuk has filed papers with the Supreme Court, petitioning for Shelley to be disqualified as a councilor. He delivered those papers to Shelley last week, and a court date to set a hearing date was scheduled for early this week.
Baziuk is also asking the court to name him as a councillor in Harrison Hot Springs. Of the nine candidates running for Harrison's four council seats, Baziuk ranked fifth, earning 269 votes. Shelley earned 284 votes in the November 19 election.
Baziuk's petition to the court states that Shelley was required to request a leave of absence from the fire department before seeking election. He filed a Freedom of Information request with the Village upon learning that Shelley was a "paid on call" firefighter. He was looking for proof that Shelley asked for a leave, but according to a reply from the Village to the FOI, no papers could be found on record.
Baziuk says that a councilor holding a position as a firefighter within the same Village is a conflict of interest, because it's council that makes decisions on funding for its fire department.
But Shelley told the Observer the need for weekday firefighters in the Village is of greater importance, and he has no intention of leaving the firehall.
"I am one of only four firemen who are out here during the week," Shelley said. While membership is at a high point for the hall, many of the firefighters are away from the Village during the work week.
As it happens, Shelley said he has not yet been called out to a fire since joining the department earlier this year. He said he has also asked to not be paid for any work with the department from October 1 forward.
"I perceive Mr. Baziuk to be a very sore loser," Shelley said.
Village CAO Ted Tisdale said that if the court decides that Shelley should be disqualified from council, it would also decide whether Baziuk would step in as councilor, or if a by-election would have to be held.
A by-election would cost the Village anywhere from $8,000 to $10,000, and would follow the same basic process as a general election. The Village has also been named in the petition. It asks that the Village of Harrison Hot Springs pays special costs on the grounds that the Chief Election Officer breached duty to commence a challenge under section 75 of the Local Government Act.
Shelley said he understood that the UBCM recently made a resolution to allow volunteer firefighters to also run for council, and presumably sit on council.
The Observer had not received confirmation on that resolution by press time.