Vince Sharpe was dismissed from his role as an Inuvik town councillor in an in-camera session at the August 8 town council meeting.
“They said it was because I owed $700 to the town for more than three months,” said Sharpe. “They did send me some letters, but I didn’t open them, which is my bad. I forgot about them, and the money wasn’t paid. That’s my fault. Before that happened, they could have given me the courtesy of a phone call, but that didn’t happen.”
According to the Local Authorities Elections Act, “a person is not eligible to be nominated or to stand as a candidate for mayor or councillor if he or she … is personally indebted to the municipal corporation for a sum exceeding $500 for more than 90 days.”
Sharpe, who has been an on-and-off town councillor since 1978, said he was in a similar situation a few years ago. That time, he said he received a phone call from the town before the 90-day grace period was up and he immediately paid the money back.
Sharpe said he has paid the $700, which were dumping fees, since his dismissal.
He said he offered to pay his debts on the spot during the in-camera session, but was denied.
Town of Inuvik Mayor Jim McDonald said Sharpe’s dismissal was council following due process.
“As soon as it was more than 90 days … it was automatic, it’s not a council decision. It’s just council following due process,” said McDonald. “He felt he was treated unfairly because he wasn’t informed, but he was invoiced and he had the statements, we followed that process.”
McDonald said the dismissal was not personal.
“It’s nothing personal, certainly there aren’t any grudges there,” he said. “It’s about accountability and council following due process.”
Sharpe said he thinks the money owed is only part of the reason for his dismissal from his councillor position.
“They don’t want any loose cannons on council that will tell the truth to the people,” he said. “Two weeks ago at council, I was criticizing, on Facebook, the operation of the water treatment plant. I said, you know, we have a $19 million plant – why do we have turbidity in our water? I got no answers to that.”
On July 12, the Town of Inuvik issued a boil water advisory for the town due to high turbidity levels in the water from the river. The advisory was lifted July 18.
Sharpe said he thinks the town should be more open and honest with the public about why there were high turbidity levels in the water.
“They didn’t have a boil water advisory in Aklavik, but they had the same high water,” said Sharpe. “We should be more open with what we’re telling people, and not just telling them that there was high turbidity at the plant. We should be telling people the truth about what happened.”
He said he thinks the turbidity was caused by a human error because the plant has been short staffed.
“They made a mistake, and should admit their mistake. You don’t have to hide behind something else,” said Sharpe.
McDonald said the boil water advisory was a result of high water levels in the river system, high turbidity levels in the river system and a problem with a polymer pump at the water treatment plant.
“The pump is used to take the solids out of the water, which is the first step of the treatment process,” he said. “That failed, but they corrected it within the same day that the advisory was issued … there was already turbidity in the water that had gone through into the distribution system, which is why the advisory lasted for several days after that.”
McDonald said the issue with the pump was not a human error.
“It was just a malfunction,” said McDonald. “It’s not a complex piece of equipment. It was just a pin that came out of the pump.”
Despite being short staffed, McDonald said staff at the water treatment plant handled the problem well.
Sharpe said he plans to run for council again in the upcoming election and will continue to advocate for more openness and honesty between council and the community.
“There is an election coming up in two months’ time, and we can let the people decide if I should sit on council or not,” said Sharpe. “I was elected to do the best I can for our community, and I always try to do that. I’m not going to accept this sitting down.”