'I’m not guilty of knowingly doing anything wrong during the election': Essex mayor
ESSEX, ONT. -- The mayor of Essex reaffirmed Monday night he will not resign amid an OPP charge against him, despite calls from another member of council to step aside.
Mayor Larry Snively made the remarks during a statement to council Monday night – the first Town of Essex council meeting since the OPP laid a charge against him for procuring persons to vote in a municipal election when those persons were not entitled to do so.
“I’m not guilty and that will be shown in court. In the meantime, I have no intentions of stepping down as mayor,” Snively said to a council chamber full of residents.
Shortly after the election, re-elected Coun. Sherry Bondy contacted police after receiving several complaints alleging proxy ballots were signed without proper consent. The Town of Essex also said it had received complaints and contacted OPP.
Proxy voting is where a ballot is cast by one person on behalf of another person with permission.
“I want to ensure the public that I did not do this and I’m not guilty of knowingly doing anything wrong during the election,” Snively continued, adding he was charged with only one count of encouraging someone to vote that was not entitled to vote. “One. I repeat, one count.”
Snively indicated people have been “attacking” him since he was elected and “everyone knows why,” he said.
“This council is so proactive, and we’re in the right direction and we have huge development in this town and I’m not going to let that fail. The town is running very well, better than it has in years,” Snively said, adding this is going to be a great year for Essex.
“Don’t let a few angry people spoil that because they want to make a good council look bad for their own political reasons,” said the mayor.
Snively did, however, step aside from his role as chair of the police board. Concerns were expressed by fellow Coun. Kim Verbeek that residing over the police service which pressed a charge against him could potentially violate the town’s code of ethics.
“I think he did the right thing by removing himself before we had to find out if we were crossing any lines,” said Verbeek.
The councillor did, however, express reservations over the negative media attention the OPP charge is bringing to the town – and specifically – upon council.
“I’m a little concerned that we have the media here again and there is a cloud over Essex council again,” Verbeek said. “There was a lot of distrust in the last council and we’ve worked really hard to rebuild the reputation of this council and I don’t want to see anything happen to that, right?”
Verbeek added she’d support the mayor if he decided to step aside to focus on his legal proceedings, noting the seriousness of the charge against him.
“Was it one proxy that was fudged, or 100? It doesn’t matter, right?” she said. “If police believe that our electoral event was compromised, then they felt they needed to pursue this.”
Ward 1 Coun. Morley Bowman said he would expect the mayor to continue on as the chair of council.
“There’s a process in place as you move forward as that charge goes through the courts,” Bowman said. “Obviously it’s not a criminal charge, it’s a little different type, so I would let it take its course.”
“When the time comes, decisions will be made and it’ll be dealt with at that time. So it’s a process, just as anything else would happen and we certainly should follow that.”