Sackville mayoralty candidates disagree on disclosing campaign contributions

Ron Aiken campaign photo

Sackville mayoralty candidates Ron Aiken and Shawn Mesheau differed today on whether to disclose the names of campaign contributors and how much each gave.

“I’ve challenged the other candidates to come forward with details on the financing of their campaigns,” Aiken said during a CBC Radio interview.

“Who’s funding them, how much did you get and where was it spent,” he added.

Last month on his Facebook campaign page, Aiken declared that he is not accepting any contributions and will finance the $1,120 he is spending — mainly on signs and flyers — from his pay as deputy mayor.

“I just don’t want to be beholden to anyone if I am elected,” Aiken wrote in his online post on April 20.

When CBC interviewer Jonna Brewer asked Mesheau how he feels about disclosure of campaign donations, he responded that he is not accepting any from corporations or unions and that a member of his team is handling personal contributions.

Shawn Mesheau campaign photo

“During the process, my campaign member asked if the person making the contribution was interested in…having their name released and I would say a good majority of them, I’ve been told, have said ‘no,'” Mesheau answered.

“It is a small town and people’s politics is personal,” he said, adding that he is following municipal election regulations which do not require disclosure of campaign contributions.

“What I’ll be given at the end of the campaign is a list of the folks who have either volunteered their time or volunteered some funding to help with the campaign, and I’ll be thanking them accordingly,” Mesheau concluded.

Fire department questions

During the CBC interview, both mayoralty candidates were questioned about allegations of harassment and bullying in the Sackville Fire Department.

Aiken acknowledged that although the town may have been slow to act, its response should be put in context.

“A lot of this stuff came up during the pandemic, so there’s all sorts of stresses imposed by that,” he said, adding that the town had just hired a new CAO, that the mayor had resigned and that it took him awhile to learn the acting mayor’s job.

Meantime, he said, a few complaints were coming in.

“I’ll stress, a formal complaint has never been filed,” Aiken added.

“So, there were a few complaints you hear about,” he said, “you say, ‘it’s something to keep my eye on, but it’s only a couple right now,’ but as the number of instances started to grow, then we started to deal with it more.”

Aiken pointed out that the town has hired an outside consulting firm to conduct an independent review of the fire department as well as the rest of the town administration.

“The consultant just started work last week [and] we expect this report to be finished sometime during the summer,” he said.

Grievance procedures

Both candidates seemed to agree that stronger complaints or grievance procedures are needed.

“I think the biggest challenge is ensuring that our managers and staff have the training they need to work through issues of this nature,” Mesheau said.

He added that personnel issues have to be handled differently when dealing with volunteers in the fire department.

“I think that’s the key here,” he added as he pointed to his own 10 years of service as a volunteer firefighter.

“People direct their grievances directly to council and yes, the buck stops with council,” he said.

“However, as Ron has said, we’re not trained HR personnel and I think these folks have to have a mechanism that will help them work through the challenge that they have.”

To read earlier coverage, click here.

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