Mark Bauman will return to the Woolwich council table, as a Kitchener Superior Court judge reinstated him Thursday morning as the representative for Ward 2.
The decision brings some closure to the weeklong saga that saw the township short a councillor, at least technically. Woolwich essentially took a do-nothing approach about Bauman’s status. He was in limbo over his failure to file an expense report related to last fall’s municipal election.
“I am pleased with the decision of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice,” he said in a prepared statement following the court case. “The events of the past week have been an emotional rollercoaster. I take full responsibility for my mistake in not filing an expense report.”
Bauman sat out this week’s committee-of-the-whole meeting. However, while the township served him a notice of forfeiture, he was never formally removed from office.
According to the provincial Ministry of Municipal Affairs, Bauman immediately forfeited his seat when he failed to file a report by the March 27 deadline. Despite being acclaimed to the seat he’s held since 2000, he was still required to submit an election expense report under changes to the Municipal Election Act approved prior to the 2010 vote.
“It’s automatic. The act is clear. There is no mechanism by which council needs to act,” said ministry spokesman Yanni Dagonas of Bauman’s removal.
“The Act does not provide a mechanism for a candidate to have the penalty for missing the filing deadline overturned; however, we are aware that other candidates/council members in similar circumstances have gone to the courts to ask a judge to set aside the penalty.”
The onus to remove a councillor failing to file rests with the clerk’s office. While the township served notice to former mayor Todd Cowan that he was in default – rendering him ineligible to run for municipal council until 2022 – no such action was taken with Bauman. The oversight remained until the question was raised last week by Elmira resident Alan Marshall.
His complaint sent the township into a tizzy. Rather than immediately removing Bauman, officials turned to their lawyers, while Bauman did the same.
The ministry advised the township to seek out legal advice, said chief administrative officer David Brenneman. Following a closed meeting Tuesday, the township issued a statement attempting to explain its position.
“The township sought legal advice. The next day the township received notice from Coun. Bauman of his intent to file application in the Superior Court, at which point there was no further action we could take, as it was before the court. We have met our obligations under the act by serving notice of default to Coun. Bauman and to council.
“The matter is now before the court. We have advised our lawyer to take a ‘no position’ stand at the hearing,” Mayor Sandy Shantz read from a prepared statement.
While this is not an isolated incident – politicians in other municipalities have been removed from office for failing to file expense reports – the delay between the filing deadline and the issue coming to light made this a unique case, said Brenneman following Tuesday’s meeting.
For that reason, there has been extensive legal consultation, with the bills mounting. The township is keeping a tally of the costs both for the Bauman case and the audit surrounding Ward 1 Coun. Scott Hahn’s election expenses, though it’s not making those numbers public yet.
Bauman said last week he’s paying all his own legal costs related to the court challenge – “it’s my time” – and had to seek his own lawyer, not one related to the township.
In other cases of councillors removed for expense filing issues, the courts have been generally willing to reinstate them.
Outstanding issues such as the pay received by Bauman between his default in March are up to the court to decide, said Dagonas.
“We don’t enforce it. It’s up to the courts to enforce those things.”