Turfed trustee fights for seat

Cathy Dobson

For Michelle Parks, the devil is in the details.

Sarnia’s city clerk says the newly re-elected Catholic school board trustee failed to declare her election expenses on time and has lost her seat.

Parks says City Clerk Nancy Wright-Laking neglected to send her a registered letter to remind her to file 30 days before the March 27 deadline.

Four others in Sarnia who have been told they are guilty of not filing expenses under the Municipal Elections Act were also not sent a registered reminder in the mail, says Parks.

“I contacted them myself and none of us got one,” she said.

Parks hired Sarnia lawyer James Carpeneto shortly after being alerted to a Notice of Default sent by Wright-Laking to the St. Clair Catholic District School Board.

In it, Wright-Laking says Parks must forfeit her elected office because she didn’t met the expense filing requirements of the Municipal Elections Act.

“My address was not correct on the Notice of Default,” said Parks, who suspects other addresses may have been wrong.

Parks, who won 36% of the vote last fall, said she is willing to share the blame for what she calls “miscommunication.”

She said she called the clerk’s office in November and was left with the impression that she didn’t have to submit her election expenses because she didn’t have any.

She neglected to take down the name of the person on the phone.

“I’m trying not to blame anyone,” Parks said.  “It’s a misunderstanding.”

Her lawyer – who campaigned himself to become Sarnia’s mayor in the 2014 election – has sent a letter to city hall pointing out the registered letter was never received by Parks.

“The clerk’s responsibilities were not fulfilled in this case. It’s my hope the decision can be overturned and that will be the end of it,” said Parks.

Parks had not received a response from city hall as of April 17, and was headed to London to file an appeal in divisional court.

“I was hoping this would be a very simple thing to fix but it’s become very complex,” said Parks. “This is way too important for me to give up. I really want to be a part of the school board this term.

“There are so many hoops to jump through; a less determined person might give up.”

She had served eight years as a trustee and served as vice chair since the fall election.

Parks said she remains optimistic the issue can be resolved before the April 28 board meeting.

If the clerk’s directive is not rescinded, the board will be obligated to declare Park’s seat vacant on April 28 and begin the process of replacing her.