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Hay River election challenged

Erika Sherk
Northern News Services

Hay River (Nov 20/06) - A Hay River town councillor said he is not passing judgment by supporting a court challenge to the recent election.

Ronald Karp, who was sworn in as a first-time councillor on Nov. 6, said he was merely providing public information to a townsperson when he swore on a court document that he had observed "a direct family member of a mayoral candidate counting ballots."

NNSL Photo/graphic

Ronald Karp is sworn in to Hay River town council Nov. 6 with Justice of the Peace Pat Bobinski presiding. - Erika Sherk/NNSL photo

Wayne Keefe, a Hay River resident, has filed an application with the Supreme Court, asking for a recount of the recent election ballots.

"[Keefe] asked who was in the room," said Karp, "and asked if I would be willing to state it publicly."

The family member in question is Kailey Pollard, daughter of now-mayor John Pollard. He declined comment on the issue, as it will be soon before the court on Dec. 1.

Beatrice Lepine, another Hay River resident, has also made oath on a separate document filed by Keefe.

Karp said he feels this makes some people think it is a "three musketeers" kind of project, but it is not the case. His part in the application is "not a big deal," he said. "If it is public information and it's true, why would you try to hide it?"

Karp said that he was the only person in the room other than the four scrutineers and two returning officers counting on election night.

He does not want to be involved in a case against the town he works for, he said. "It's not in my best interests to do that."

However, his document reads, "I make this affidavit in support of an application to have the electoral process in Hay River investigated and to have a recount of ballots."

The actual case is between Wayne Keefe and the elections returning officer, which for Hay River South is Selena Pukanich, who was unavailable for comment. Keefe is technically the sole applicant, as the application is made in his name.

Lepine's document has nothing to do with Pollard or his daughter. It provides witness information as to the voting experience on Vale Island.

Her affidavit said she believes the actions of the returning officer limited residents' access to the Vale Island polling station.

The reasons provided include a polling station not fully accessible to disabled voters and confusion over where Vale Island residents were supposed to vote.

The document further states that the returning officer "failed in her duties and impacted the rights of voters in a democratic process."

Lepine declined to comment on her involvement. "Maybe in a couple of days," she said.

In Keefe's document, he states that "a direct family member of a mayoral candidate was counting ballots" and "physically handling ballots."

Keefe declined to answer how he came to be involved in the issue to the point of taking it to the courts. "All I can say is that when I did become aware of improprieties it became a concern. That's why I decided to pursue this."

Keefe's application also states that "insufficient ballot boxes" resulted in one box being opened before voting was finished. A lack of directions on how to vote was listed as a reason as well, saying that it was unclear how many councillors one could vote for.

"It's in the hands of the judge now, said Karp, "to make a decision on the whole affair."