In yet another sign of the political rancour in Clarke's Beach, it's now been decided that residents will no longer have the opportunity to vote for mayor when municipal elections are held next year.
The town council, on a motion brought forward by Deputy Mayor Kevin Hussey, voted 6-1 during a public meeting on Aug. 13 to do away with the separate ballot for mayor.
As such, all candidates for council will be on the one ballot, with voters being asked to vote for up to seven candidates.
Those elected are then entitled to have a secret ballot to determine who will serve as mayor and deputy mayor.
Traditionally, the mayor's post is offered to the candidate who receives the most votes, but there's nothing in legislation which requires this.
Hussey justified his motion by pointing to the outcome of the 2009 mayor's vote, in which incumbent Mayor Betty Moore defeated longtime councillor Frank Evely Sr.
"This is my problem with it. The town lost a good councillor because he ran for the mayor's position and was unsuccessful," Hussey explained.
In 2005, Moore was unchallenged for the mayor's post.
Separate ballot common
It's a reversal of a system that has been in place in the town since the 2005 election. It's also common in most other larger municipalities in the province.
Moore became mayor after polling the most votes of 14 candidates in the 2001 election, and was offered the position by council.
Though Hussey made no reference to his ongoing feud with Mayor Moore during the debate, she said it's clearly part of a strategy by the deputy mayor and others to loosen her grip on the mayor's chair.
"There's no doubt," she said after the meeting.
In fact, Hussey previously supported the separate ballot system.
Moore — the only female on council — has been increasingly isolated by her colleagues, and Hussey has stated on several occasions at recent meetings that "the chair has no control."
In an interview with The Compass in July, Hussey stated the following: "I'm sick of Betty Moore ... She has done everything to try and cause a racket and fuss. Not one councillor supports her."
During discussion on the motion, several councillors made reference to the tradition of offering the mayor's post to the candidate with the most votes, though Coun. Roland Andrews stated: "It's not cast in stone."
Coun. Winston Vokey added: "Council will respect the wishes of the people."
Moore was the only member of council to vote against the motion, stating: "I feel by having a separate ballot the community picks the person they want."
She added there are others who want to be mayor, but "I don't see that happening on a separate ballot."
When asked later if she was confident the current slate of councillors would endorse her for mayor if she topped the polls next fall, Moore stated: "Definitely not."
She added: "I have felt for quite a long time that the sitting members of council are not wishing me to continue being the mayor. Now that they've made this decision to not have a separate ballot, the community will not choose."
But she's confident in her chances of re-election to council, stating during the debate: "I haven't got a worry."
Meanwhile, Hussey was interviewed on the issue by The Compass last week, but later demanded that his comments be retracted.
The Compass respected his request.
Here's what the Municipalities Act has to say in regard to the eletion of a mayor:
• 17. (1) The minister may direct that there be a separate election of the mayor in the first election of a town council or where an election of council has been ordered by him or her.
(2) A town council may by a 2/3 vote of the councillors in office, provide for the election of the mayor by a separate election, and may in the same manner change that decision, or a direction made by the minister under subsection (1).
(3) Where a person is not nominated for the post of mayor as provided for under subsection (1) or (2), a mayor may be elected by the councillors as if a provision had not been made for the separate election of the mayor.
(4) Where a person is not nominated for the position of mayor and a mayor is elected by the councillors under subsection (3), the person who receives the next highest number of votes to the person who was elected with the least number of votes shall be considered to be elected to the town council.
Election of mayor and deputy
18. (1) At the first meeting held following the first election and each general election the councillors shall;
(a) where there has not been a separate election for mayor, elect one councillor to be mayor; and
(b) elect one councillor to be deputy mayor.
(2) An election under subsection (1) shall be conducted by the town clerk or returning officer and shall be done by a secret ballot of councillors.