The election process got off to a rocky start in Harrison Hot Springs, with one candidate challenging the nominations of three other candidates in court.
Council candidate Zoltan Kiss served court papers to incumbent Mayor Ken Becotte, incumbent councillor Dave Harris and council candidate Sonja Reyerse-Peters last week, based on inaccuracies he believed were in their nomination papers.
He wanted all three disqualified from running in the November 19 election, based on the lack of financial information he felt they offered.
“I did my research,” he told the Observer last week.
However, after a day and a half in a Chilliwack courtroom, the judge presiding over the case declined to disqualify any of the candidates.
While a written summation of the court’s decision was not available at press time, an email from Kiss stated that “in order not to be seen as unnecessarily interfering in the democratic election process, (the judge) decided to attribute their actions to sloppiness rather than deliberate deceit.”
Kiss, who was aided by fellow candidate and former mayor John Allen in court, also wrote that he would respect the court’s decision.
Kiss had told the court that Becotte should have disclosed information about Lakeside Marine Sales and Charters.
He said there is still lingering evidence of the Harrison-based business, such as a sign in town and a link from a tourism website. But Becotte said he no longer has a business license for Lakeside Marina, and he hasn’t earned any income from the defunct business in almost two years.
According to the Financial Disclosures Act, candidates must declare any income from businesses that operate within the electoral area in which they are running.
Kiss told the court that Reyerse-Peters failed to include mention her part-ownership of Harrison Heritage House and Cabins, and that the name of the business Dave Harris works for, Civic Consultants, was incorrect. The legal business name is Civic Utilities Limited, which is often referred to as Civic Consultants, and he’s worked there for seven years.
All three candidates spoke with the Chief Election Officer before last Thursday’s court date, to sort out any missing or incorrect information.
Becotte confirmed that none of the three candidates named in Kiss’ court papers attended the proceedings.
“It wasn’t as much about us, as it was about our nomination papers,” he said. “And I took the approach that I was going to trust the court to make the decision.”
As for Harris, he said he didn’t let the situation detract him from campaigning.
“It was just silly,” Harris said. “It really didn’t serve any purpose.”
Harris added that the nomination forms are “ambiguous” when asking for sources of income.
Nomination forms had to be filed by October 14, and the Chief Elections Officer had to forward the names by late last week.