Democracy wasn’t well served the other week when council assembled at a nearly empty Active Living Centre in Huntsville to appoint a new councilor to replace the departed Chris Zanetti, who represented Stisted, Stephenson and Port Sydney wards.
Councilors one by one raised their hands for candidates in a series of straw-votes to eventually declare one of the nine candidates a winner. Some councilors voted for multiple candidates, in an effort not to offend any of the applicants, but how they got to this point is the most interesting part of the situation.
Councilor Zanetti, who has served two terms as the chair of finance under former mayor Claude Doughty, told Hunters Bay Radio (HBR) that he wanted to continue in the same role in the upcoming term and was easily re-elected.
Zanetti, one could guess, had no idea that the job he had done on council for the last eight years would slip out of his grasp shortly after being sworn in. One could also say that he and a couple of the other seasoned councilors were sent into the wilderness so-to-speak as the prized chairmanship of several committees went to newly elected councilors – save for Karin Terziano who was anointed deputy mayor and chair of finance.
It wasn’t be long – just two meetings – before Zanetti offered his resignation citing personal reasons. I thought, based on a few discussions with Zanetti during the election, that he didn’t think losing the chair of the prestigious finance committee was in the cards. But nothing in politics and card games is a given. I submit that Zanetti wanted nothing to do with the new, re-jigged council and his role in it. He up and quit.
Council was faced with a by-election at a reported cost of $57,000 or appointing a replacement. The new mayor wanted a by-election, but council couldn’t hold their noses and vote for a by-election given the spending that came with it. They decided to appoint someone to the job and that is where the wheels came off the wagon.
Rather than just picking the next person in line, council wanted to open the contest up to a number of other applicants. At first, council was going to appoint a committee to do the job for them but that didn’t come to pass. At the general committee meeting a few days after council, it was decided that council would seek applications and would interview candidates for the job. All of a sudden, council wanted to get their hands dirty picking a successor. It seemed a proposed list of committee members who would make the selection was quietly scuttled and not presented at the committee. Sources tell me that there were a lot of discussions on the make-up of the selection committee between meetings.
So council got down to the dirty work of picking a replacement and went through the show of hands for the nine candidates. The only problem was that the next in line wasn’t among them, nor should she have been.
Karen Insley would have been appointed if Chris Zanetti had failed to be sworn in some 40 days earlier. But since he was sworn in, and left after two council meetings, some creative process was put in place to circumvent the people.
Insley quite rightly refused to participate in the apply-off saying “it’s unfortunate that they didn’t look at the results [of the election] because that’s the people speaking.”
If she had applied I doubt that she would have won and Jason FitzGerald who came in dead last in the election would still be in the councilor’s seat today.