By Jeff Labine
The City of Prince Albert is in the process of evicting tenants, one of which is a sitting member of council, from a Central Ave. property.
Back in February, the city took ownership of 1203 Central Ave. after MFN & Mb Holdings Inc., the parent company of Embee Diamond Technologies and previous minority owner of the property, failed to pay $176,046 in taxes.
Ward 3 Coun. Evert Botha is the COO of Embee Diamonds, which operates out of 1203 Central Ave.
Mayor Greg Dionne said the city gave notice for the tenants to vacate the premise by the end of March. On Monday, the city was planning on changing the locks but Dionne said that has been delayed.
“Coun. Botha’s legal team has made applications to delay our action,” he said. “They are a tenant but they are a non-paying tenant. So now we have to take the appropriate steps to remove them from our property. That process is underway.”
Meanwhile, Dionne said he is making a request to the province to make changes for the next municipal election, which isn’t until 2020, so candidates running can’t be in debt to the city.
The province sets the rules when it comes to elections but Dionne believes if someone is going to run, they should be a “resident in good standing.”
“There’s nothing in the election act now that prevents anyone that owes a debt to the city from running,” he said. “But from all the calls, and the discontent that I have taken from the general population, I believe I should take the next step and ask the government to make the change.”
Any changes made to the city’s election rules wouldn’t be made retroactive meaning Botha will continue to sit on council.
After repeated attempts for an interview, Botha refused to comment on the proposed changes, although he did provide an email regarding the Central Ave. property.
He said he is “not at liberty to (further) discuss this matter or address the media at this stage. We anticipate making an announcement in coming weeks at which time I will gladly sit down for an interview.”
In a previous story, Botha said he and the others of the company plan to clear up the tax bill or purchase the property again if it goes to auction.
It is unclear if any of these plans have changed but Dionne confirmed the city is going to sit down with legal representatives of Botha’s this week to discuss the future of the property.
Dionne said he never thought a situation like this one could happen.
“This is something new that just came about but I do think it is important that we do respond to the general public and overwhelmingly the general public is not happy,” he said. “[The general public] don’t think it is right that somebody who owes money to the city should have the right to run for a city position.”
He said at the end of the day, the job of council is to enforce the city’s bylaws, which includes paying taxes.
Dionne explained he and the rest of council will continue to work with Botha but whenever the issue of the property comes up the Ward 3 councillor will have to excuse himself. He stressed Botha has been treated like every other taxpayer and hasn’t received any special treatment.