Puslinch Township council vacancy to be filled by appointment

Puslinch council is moving forward to fill the vacancy created by the sudden death of councillor Wayne Stokley on May 29.

Council decided on June 13 to fill the position through an appointment by council, rather than hold a costly byelection.

Mayor Dennis Lever said “it was certainly a sad situation, but it has to be addressed.” He explained the seat must be  officially declared vacant and council needs to decide how the seat should be filled.

In her report to council on June 13, CAO Karen Landry provided a number of recommendations along with projected costs. Options included filling the position via a byelection or appointment.

Landry noted the costs of conducting a byelection in the township are similar to the costs for running an election, as all positions on council are elected at large.

While some costs would be reduced, Landry estimated the cost of a byelection will be $40,000, whereas the administrative cost to fill the vacancy by appointment is about $2,500.

Councillor Matthew Bulmer said “as difficult as the appointment process is, I think I would be more in favour of the appointment process at this time.” He questioned part of the process that included the whittling down of the list of candidates by public vote of council.

Bulmer asked if that was a requirement under the Municipal Act or whether it was an option.

Bulmer commented “we are adding a team member and I do not want it to be embarrassing.”

Landry stressed this would have to be an open process as required under the Municipal Act – and not something that could be decided in closed session.

Landry explained there are a limited number of items for which council can go into closed session.

“This particular process does not fall under either the mandatory or discretionary reasons to go into closed session under the Municipal Act,” said Landry.

Bulmer asked whether this included someone who would be considered an identifiable individual. Landry said “appointing someone to this body would not be considered a personnel matter.”

Councillor Susan Fielding said “it is very tragic we are here talking about this … and is certainly not a topic I want to broach.” She too favoured the appointment approach “mainly because of the great cost which could be incurred by the township [through a byelection].”

Both councillor Ken Roth and Mayor Lever agreed with the appointment approach.

Lever stated “when I saw the cost it seemed high.

“I agree the process has the potential to be challenging, but I hope that we will have more than one candidate who applies and we can all see how that person will benefit the township in the long run.”

He agreed with Fielding that all of council would support the individual appointed.