Ballot security not an issue: clerk

A request from the Northern Action Group (NAG) to tighten security around the mail-in ballots that have come in for the Nov. 10 municipal election was shot down last night.
Clerk Glenn Treftlin said he’s been doing everything by the book.
“I would like to set the issue straight as to who’s responsible for what,” he told council while also addressing the viewing audience on Shaw Cable 11.
Treftlin explained any municipal election is organized by the clerk, who devises procedures in accordance with the Municipal Election Act of 1996.
Any changes to procedure, such as the mail-in ballot system, may be adopted, upon council’s approval, which in this case it did last September.
“I’m quite confident the procedures I have established are consistent with the act, and are not eligible to be challenged,” said Treftlin.
He noted the letter from NAG stated: “In closing, we are not making accusations. We simply request full security and trust of a sacred ballot.”
“It is my position, however, that my professional ability has been called into question and I rather resent that,” he remarked. “I believe the procedures set out are sufficient in maintaining the integrity of this election.”
When asked how common the mail-in ballot method was, Treftlin replied more than 100 municipalities in Ontario are doing it, including Dryden, Kenora, and Sioux Lookout.
“I think the point has to be made that we [councillors] have nothing to do with the election. It totally has to do with the clerk,” Coun.
Deane Cunningham said.
“And Glenn Treftlin has run seven or eight elections over the years,” noted Mayor Glenn Witherspoon.
“I believe we have to believe in the integrity of, and trust, our administration.”
In a letter to town council dated Oct. 20, NAG requested that all mail-in ballots be held for security purposes either at the post office, the OPP detachment, or BDO Dunwoody here prior to counting on election day.
“The reason is to ensure an honest, unfettered, secured ballot,” wrote Zita Miller, NAG’s secretary- treasurer.
“It is our opinion that the Civic Centre, which produces the voters’ list, and arranges and controls the ballots, should not have control of the voting public’s ballots until such time as the votes are counted.
Period,” she stressed.
“Further to this, we do not believe the clerk or anyone else should separate the secured ballot from the original envelope sent in by each voter until such time as they are counted,” Miller added.
“We do not believe the ballots are fully secured in the Civic Centre when that safe is opened at any time [for] civic requirements or after Civic Centre hours by administration.
“In closing, we are not making accusations. We simply request full security and trust of a sacred ballot,” Miller wrote.
Also at last night’s regular meeting, council accepted a request from NAG for more information about the River Walk condominium.
In a letter to the mayor and council, the group is demanding the town divulge the total taxpayer cost of the project from the start to present day; who previously owned the land it is built upon; how many units still need to be sold; and will the unsold units result in a tax increase for local taxpayers? This item was forwarded to the Administration and Finance executive committee for a recommendation, with a response to council to come at a later date.
Also at last night’s meting, council heard an activities report from Geoff Gillon, economic development officer with the Rainy River Future Development Corp., for the period covering July 1-Sept. 30, 2003.
Council also accepted an invoice for services rendered for the amount of $29,813.
In other business at last night’s meeting, council:
•passed a bylaw to approve a policy with respect to the trimming of trees;
•passed a bylaw to approve a letter of engagement with Wescott Thomas as executive search consultant for purposes of finding candidates for the position of CAO for the town;
•passed a bylaw to authorize an amendment to an encroachment agreement between the town and Fort Frances Non-Profit Innovative Homes Inc.;
•received and deferred a request from the Economic Development Advisory Commit-tee for support of its resolution for continuance of the contract with the Rainy River Future Development Corp. (from 2003-06) to the 2004 budget process; and
•referred an item regarding the Fort Frances Power Corp., and paying for the utility’s occupancy in the Civic Centre, to the Administration and Finance executive committee for a recommendation.