Although the "vote" came during a committee meeting and is ultimately unofficial, the divide referred to by former councillor Jeremy Seguin appears to remain intact in West Nipissing Council.
It is Seguin's Ward 7 seat, left vacant after he resigned abruptly last weekend the council is now tasked to fill. A "straw poll," as CAO Jay Barbeau termed it, left the informal vote count deadlocked at 4-4 on how to proceed with finding Seguin's successor.
See original story: Seguin resigns from 'toxic and dysfunctional' council
Earlier in the evening, by way of resolution, Council declared the seat vacant — a formality, according to Barbeau. He advised there is a 60-day period to appoint or pass a by-law for a by-election, according to the Municipal Act.
In a raucous general government committee meeting, Barbeau and Clerk Melanie Ducharme had to remind chair Lise Senecal and other committee members of the proper procedure for the task at hand. The process jumped off the rails when a general discussion about the preferred method to fill the Ward 7 seat escalated into the identification of 2018 Ward 7 runner-up Normand Roberge as a potential appointee.
Barbeau attempted to walk the conversation back to an exchange of ideas focusing on the method council will use to fill the empty seat at the table and not the individual. These include appointing the election runner-up, accepting applications for appointment, and holding a by-election.
The informal vote saw Mayor Joanne Savage cast what would be the tying vote, a move further challenged by those around the table, although later confirmed to be appropriate by Barbeau and Ducharme.
See related story: Mayor agrees: West Nipissing council is 'dysfunctional'
Councillors Chris Fisher, Dan Roveda, Leo Malette and Roland Larabie sided with appointing runner-up Roberge to the Verner seat.
Fisher observed an appointment of Roberge would "spare expense."
Roveda agreed with appointing Roberge, "if he is willing. It will bring some stability to council."
Councillors Lise Senecal, Denis Senecal and Yvon Duhaime all supported a by-election.
Mayor Savage prefaced her support for the by-election option as a vote to allow for more information to be gathered on the process. That is what will happen, as Ducharme was directed to prepare a report on succession options in time for the matters to be discussed at the August 11 meeting. Savage also asked for language to be included about breaking ties in a council with even numbers.