Controversial signs that were taken down earlier this week by city staff have been altered and put back up by a resident.
St. Albert resident Ted Durham placed two signs on St. Albert Trail that drew attention to his blog “St. Albert Stickman.” The blog alleges a misuse of public funds by mayoral candidate Cathy Heron.
On review the city found errors in Heron’s expenses, but city manager Kevin Scoble said it is possible the city never invoiced Heron for the funds.
Scoble said that the city of St. Albert took down Durham’s first set of signs because they did not comply with the city’s bylaws.
“These signs did not fit in any of those [allowed sign]categories and were not compliant with the bylaw,” Scoble said.
The signs were taken down Wednesday morning. Durham altered them, removing Heron’s name, and put them back up on Friday. The altered signs make reference to the election date and now can be categorized as election signs.
A statement from the city said that “the signs as they currently appear, and in their current locations, meet the criteria for compliance with the Traffic Bylaw.”
Durham said that he put up the signs up because he said he wants to inform the public about Heron’s expenses.
“I put them up because I want to make sure people understand what is going on in the city,” Durham said.
Durham said that he does not believe that the error in Heron’s expenses was clerical and he said that Heron is blaming city staff.
Heron said she was “pretty upset” to see the signs put up but she has put it behind her. She said that she was concerned that the negative campaign could detrimentally impact her run for mayor but said she has received lots of public support since the incident.
“The outpouring of support in the end made me feel great. In 2013 this kind of campaigning happened and St. Albertans didn’t like it and didn’t put up with it,” Heron said.
Heron said that she would rather see the campaign focus on election issues said that the “expense ridiculousness “ is not an election issue.
Heron’s expenses came under fire during the last council meeting of the term. Resident William Tuchak, a retired Revenue Canada auditor, presented information on three incidents that he believed added up to $3,331.61 in fraudulent expense claims.
An initial investigation by the city cleared her of any malfeasance but it was later found that she owed the city $664.80 from a missing invoice dating back to 2015, which she paid back on Sept. 21 when it was brought to her attention.
Scoble said that there is no record of a payment made by Heron to the city to pay the invoice from 2015.
Scoble said that it is possible Heron did not receive an invoice for the funds because of the confusing nature of the previous expense system and the complicated way that the city deals with expenses relating to the wastewater commission.
Candidates weigh in
Malcolm Parker, one of the three candidates for mayor, said that he was not surprised to see the signs go up and knew that this campaign was going to get “ugly.”
“It’s not professional,” Parker said.
Parker said he plans to stay out of the negative campaigning and will not be “throwing arrows at Cathy or Cam.”
Cam MacKay, who is also running for mayor, could not be reached by press time. In an earlier interview MacKay told CTV that he is not sure what position to take on it.
“I don’t necessarily want to intervene between a resident and a politician,” MacKay said.
Durham said that he only plans to keep the signs up for the weekend and will remove them on Monday and hopes the signs will start a conversation.