Darte resigns from the regional council

George Darte has resigned from his seat on the regional council in a decision that has shocked some of his colleagues.

“It’s a private decision,” said Darte, who represented St. Catharines. “I am so sorry that I cannot complete my term. I have to do what I have to do for me.

This was Darte’s first term, having finished second in 2018 among six regional councilors elected for the city.

Asked if his decision would prevent him from running again in the Oct. 24 election, Darte replied, “That’s a safe guess.”

St. Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik was stunned.

“George has been such a great contributor to the board,” he said. “He’s at every meeting, and he’s contributing and not afraid to challenge the board and the staff.

“He has supported so many positive initiatives that the (Niagara) region has undertaken, from public transit to protecting our environment.

Lincoln County’s Rob Foster said the resignation came as a complete surprise.

“George is both a friend and a colleague that I have so much respect for,” Foster said. “We have worked together on many things for the good of all Niagara.

“I don’t know the reasons for George’s departure, but it’s a loss for St. Catharines and Niagara.”

Darte informed his board colleagues of his decision through an email Wednesday evening.

In the email obtained by The Standard, Darte joked that he will miss the butter pies area chairman Jim Bradley is known for sharing at meetings.

“It’s obviously something that I take very seriously, and I’m sorry that I couldn’t go through with it,” Darte said.

“It has been a pleasure working with you, all of the board members and the wonderful staff I have had the privilege of knowing and working with. Jim Bradley has been a truly positive breath of fresh air and has brought the region back to an organization that any employee would love to work for.

Later in the email, Darte said: “I am happy to chat with any of you if you wish, but I will ask you to respect my privacy for my decision to resign. This does not is not something that I decided without giving it a lot of thought.

Darte, a funeral planner, came to the council with no political experience but with deep ties to the community. His community service included the Rotary Club of St. Catharines, St. Catharines Rowing Club, United Way, St. Catharines Hospital, and Star of the Sea Church.

Sendzik would not speculate on how city councilors would decide to fill the vacancy.

Local municipalities have two options for filling a seat on the regional council: by-election or appointment.

However, the Municipal Elections Act states that a by-election cannot be held if the seat becomes vacant after March 31.

The Region must fill the seat within 60 days.

Nearly three months ago, Mat Siscoe was nominated by his peers on St. Catharines City Council to replace Sandie Bellows in the region after her death.

His seat was declared vacant on November 18.

The decision to appoint Siscoe sparked a local political storm. City councilors voted 7-6 against a staff recommendation to nominate Mike Britton, who finished eighth in the race for city regional councillors.

The seventh (first runner-up) Kelly Edgar was nominated when Jim Bradley was elected Regional Chairman by the Regional Councilors at the start of this term.

City policy states that if there is a vacancy in the last year of a term, the council appoints the next candidate if he has received 70% of the votes of the person before him.

The St. Catharines City Council debate began at the official end of the last year of the term.

Britton hired a lawyer to look into what he called the city council’s “erroneous and unjust” decision not to recommend him to fill Bellows’ vacancy. The lawyer made a presentation to the regional council before it voted to accept the city’s recommendation and appoint Siscoe.

Elna M. Lemons