The Supreme Court of B.C. has ruled the former mayor of the small village of Pouce Coupe in Northern B.C. was wrong when she alleged her replacement breached the Local Government Act through vote buying and voter intimidation in last October’s election.
According to Justice Ward Branch, the community has suffered through several years of political drama well out of proportion to its size of 800 people.
Branch wrote that in 2015 resident Lorraine Michetti brought a legal claim against former mayor William Plowright and chief administrative officer Carol Bishop, claiming Bishop and Plowright had defamed her. The case was abandoned after Plowright resigned and Bishop died.
Michetti was elected mayor in 2016 in a byelection after Plowright’s resignation. She was re-elected in October 2018 but lost to Danielle Veach last October by five votes.
Branch wrote that in February 2021 Michetti made a social media statement “that many individuals viewed as insulting to the local First Nations community.”
Later that month, a resident spoke to council, alleging Michetti had “engaged in online conduct unbecoming of an elected official,” and village council passed a motion to censure Michetti for her Facebook post. Those two February social media statements were unrelated.
In September that year, there was a byelection to replace two councillors and one of those elected was Veach.
“Immediately after being sworn into office, Veach proposed a motion that Michetti not hold any portfolios or board positions. The resolution was passed by council (in October),” Branch wrote.
In November, Michetti challenged that resolution in court and on March 22, 2022 the court ruled in her favour. Michetti was reinstated to all board portfolios she held before the resolution.
Veach decided to run for mayor against Michetti, which led to the current legal drama. Plowright also ran again for mayor.
Michetti’s claim was that a “tea and talk” event held by Veach was vote buying, and that at two events Veach had made statements about Michetti that amounted to fraudulent misrepresentation.
Branch ruled that neither was the case, and hence the election results stood.
“I find that the 2022 mayoral election in the Village of Pouce Coupe was valid. The petition is dismissed,” he wrote.
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