Sandy Shantz was reinstated as Woolwich’s mayor by a court ruling Thursday afternoon.
The proceedings were slightly more complicated than in the case of Coun. Mark Bauman, who was reinstated in minutes after being removed from office for similar reasons. The court granted leave to speak to Alan Marshall, whose complaint led to Shantz’s removal in the first place.
In the end, Shantz was returned to the office she was forced to vacate on July 8 when the township served her with a notice of default for failing to file the required paperwork related to her election expenses. Marshall’s revelations prompted Shantz’s removal less than a week after a Municipal Election Compliance Audit Committee (MECAC) decision to dismiss an application by the Elmira resident for a review of Shantz’s election filing.
The judge’s decision came as a relief to Shantz.
“That’s the outcome I hoped for, but I certainly didn’t go in without some apprehension,” she said in an interview Thursday afternoon. “It’s nice to have it behind me, and just to be able to get back to some form of normalcy.”
For Shantz, it’s now “back to work,” the decision having made it as though the paperwork issues had never occurred.
“It essentially reverses the default. That’s how I understand it.”
Shantz acknowledged her original expense report was inaccurate, submitting a new, audited statement to the committee. With that, MECAC members saw no need for an additional audit, dismissing Marshall’s application.
Marshall argued, however, that the act was clear in stating that Shantz was in default by failing to submit the proper paperwork before the deadline, filing additional claims with the township and the audit committee in the days following the hearing. That prompted Woolwich to seek out legal advice, culminating in the notice of default served earlier this month.
Since then, Marshall had been conducting an email campaign to get standing in the court case, including requesting that the township take a position and call him in as a witness. Woolwich, however, opted to take no position in Shantz’s bid to be reinstated by a judge. On Thursday, the judge allowed him to testify but not to submit information that wasn’t already in evidence.
Shantz said she won’t let Marshall’s efforts have an impact on how she does the job.
“We’ll just keep on going. It should not be for him to decide on the agenda of the township,” she said.
The extra court time will be tacked on to the growing legal bills related to the expense filing woes of three Woolwich councillors. While Shantz, like Bauman, was required to pay for her own petition to the court for reinstatement, the township lawyers were also involved. Even without Shantz’s case, costs have climbed to $22,000, reports township clerk Val Hummel.
Three MECAC meetings have cost $3,150 (each member is paid $150 per meeting), plus an estimated $500 in mileage expenses. In the case of Coun. Scott Hahn, the MECAC-ordered audit of his election expenses, currently ongoing, will cost an estimated $10,000. Legal costs for his case sit at about $1,900 to date.
Legal fees for Bauman’s case – he was removed for failing to file a statement of election expenses despite being acclaimed to the Ward 2 seat – rang in at $6,100.
Costs for Shantz’s case are ongoing, and likely to be much higher.
Shantz, who is expected to file a final revised copy of her expenses with the province to wrap up the case, said the public support she received over the last few weeks was helpful.
“I received a lot of support from people in the township. It was so important to feel that.”