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Expense filing sees councillor on hold in court challenge

Mark Bauman is on the sidelines pending a court decision on his status as councillor for Woolwich’s Ward 2.

The longstanding councillor, returned by acclamation in last fall’s municipal election, failed to submit an expense report by the March 27 deadline. Under the province’s Election Act, that would see him forfeit his seat immediately, but the township is holding off on a decision until the matter is resolved in court.

“The township’s lawyer has been advised by the solicitor representing councillor Bauman that they intend to make an application before the Superior Court to allow councillor Bauman to remain in office,” said Woolwich clerk Val Hummel in an email Thursday afternoon. “Since this matter will be before the court, a decision with respect to whether councillor Bauman should be allowed to remain in office will be determined by a Superior Court judge.”

Hummel said Bauman would not be attending any council meetings until the court renders a verdict.

He joins in limbo colleague Scott Hahn. The Ward 1 councillor is currently awaiting the outcome of an audit ordered last week by the Municipal Election Compliance Audit Committee, which took issue with his election expense filing.

The review of Bauman’s situation was prompted by a complaint from Elmira resident Alan Marshall, who filed a statement with Hummel on Wednesday morning.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the township was waiting on legal advice before proceeding with the complaint. Under the Municipal Act, Bauman could be stripped of his seat and disallowed from running in the next election. Former mayor Todd Cowan is prohibited from running for municipal council until 2022 under the same regulations, having failed to file an expense report for the 2014 election.

Some confusion exists because Bauman was acclaimed to the seat he has held since 2000.

“It’s under investigation,” said Hummel of the complaint against Bauman. “I need some advice. I have to speak to a lawyer first.”

At that point, the township had more questions than answers, chief administrative officer David Brenneman said Wednesday afternoon as he waited for calls from both Woolwich’s solicitors and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs.

Until those questions are answered, Bauman’s status remains unclear, he added.

Could, for instance, he be ineligible to sit in on next week’s council meeting if a decision isn’t made by then?

“We’re not sure about that,” he said.

As of Thursday afternoon, however, the township was taking a wait-and-see approach to the issue.

“Based on legal advice received, the township will not be taking any action at this time and will await the outcome of the legal and court proceedings. Until such time that the Superior Court has made a ruling, councillor Bauman will not be attending any committee or council meetings,” said Hummel.

Bauman has never filed an expense report for an election in which he was acclaimed, though the rules for filing were changed for the 2010 election. That time, Bauman had to run a campaign as he faced a challenger. He did file the required paperwork afterwards.

This is not an isolated incident. Politicians in other municipalities have been removed from office for failing to file expense reports, but the courts have been willing to reinstate them in most cases.

Bauman, who said Wednesday he was awaiting legal advice on the issue, did not respond to the Observer prior to press time.

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