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Judge to decide if deputy mayor faked residency in byelection

Justice David Orsborn is taking some time to consider his decision in an unusual case that could have far-reaching implications for the Witless Bay town council.

But that depends on how far Orsborn will go with his decision regarding a byelection last fall to fill two vacant seats on town council.

In the hours before nominations closed on Sept. 27, 2016, local businessman and developer Fraser Paul filed his nomination papers. On the documents he declared he was residing at 104 Gallows Rd. and had been a resident of the town at that address for at least the prior 30 days, as is required under the Municipal Elections Act.

Not so, said Gallows Road resident Lorna Yard.

Yard stated the house that Paul claimed to be living in had been vacant all along, and Paul unlawfully got nominated and later elected to the town council. He currently sits as deputy mayor.

Yard took Paul to court over the issue.

The case was heard over about three days of court time at Newfoundland Supreme Court in St. John’s.

A string of witnesses testified for each side — many Gallows Road residents supporting Yard’s position that the house was vacant. They said they did not see any activity at the house, no garbage collection, no vehicles in the driveway, no maintenance and no lights on.

Other witnesses testified on behalf of Paul that they had stopped in to speak to him at the house, or saw him and his vehicles in the driveway.

There were also photos submitted by Paul that appears to show items being taken from the house on moving day following the byelection (Paul had built a new house in the town), but Yard’s lawyer suggested the photos were staged.

If the court finds Paul was not a resident of the town for 30 days prior to when he filed his nomination papers, the byelection results could be overturned, removing him from council.

It is uncertain how that would affect any decisions made by the council that Paul had voted on since gaining a seat in the byelection.

It’s also unknown how that would affect Paul’s ability to seek election in the upcoming general municipal elections in September.

That will depend on Orsborn’s ruling, which he said he will file as soon as he can.

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