RMOW doles out money in election challenge 

Mayor-Elect spends most in legal battle, settles for most

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Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden is getting the biggest payout from the municipality in the wake of the legal challenge to her nomination papers during the election.

The new mayor is getting a $4,000 cheque from the Resort Municipality of Whistler to cover some of her $5,700 in legal fees over the challenge in October, which put into question whether she could run for mayor of Whistler.

She's not the only one getting some money; all four candidates whose papers were challenged will be reimbursed in part for their legal costs or their time away from work. The total municipal payout is $8,520.

"When I think back on it, it was still really a waste of time, the whole process, it was very trying at the time," said Wilhelm-Morden Monday on the eve of her induction to the mayor's seat on council.

"And I still wonder if there will be some kind of chilling effect in the future for people considering running for public office, that they could end up having their documents challenged and being out of pocket a fairly significant amount of money."

A month before the election, Wilhelm-Morden and council candidates Jack Crompton, Steve Anderson and Steve Andrews learned that Whistler's Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) was "challenging the validity of nomination papers for four candidates."

Wilhelm-Morden and Crompton hired lawyers; Andrews and Anderson represented themselves. All four attended court in North Vancouver for roughly five-hours of proceedings until Judge Carol Baird-Ellan ruled their papers were valid. All four were cleared to run.

It was a turn of events that rocked the election process in Whistler with potentially damaging effects on mayoral candidate Ralph Forsyth's campaign.

That's because the CEO looked at the nomination papers more closely after some inquiries, one of which came from Forsyth's campaign team. That closer inspection then prompted the decision to ask the court to determine whether some potential defects in the papers affected the candidacy.

Crompton was elected of the three running for council. He will be reimbursed $3,500 of his $5,100 legal bill. He said that's the right decision on the part of the municipality.

"I've been pretty critical about the decision to take it to court in the city," he said. "I was really disappointed that they did and by extension I felt it was the right decision to settle with us and at least cover part of our costs.

"I'm out of pocket a significant amount of money still, but less."

When contacted Steve Anderson said "no comment." He represented himself in court and will be reimbursed $500.

Steve Andrews will get $525. That's compensation for two days missed work, one to prepare for court and one to attend. He also brought a witness who will get $200 from his settlement.

"I believe it's a fair settlement to help offset costs," said Andrews.

"It was nerve-wracking and it put extra stress on me at a time when I didn't need extra stress," he said.

Each candidate negotiated the settlements separately.

"We could have gone back and got direction from the judge about the cost issue but it was important to me to get this done before officially taking the mayor's position," said Wilhelm-Morden.

The municipality issued this statement this week: "Following the conclusion of the court hearing on October 21, 2011, the judge left it to the parties to resolve the issue of costs in the matter. The judge issued her judgment and confirmed the nomination papers of the four candidates were valid and did not affect their candidacy. Consistent with litigation practice, the RMOW agreed to pay costs to the parties."


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