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New West school board by-election set for Feb 3, 2024

Former trustee scandal leads to February 2024 school board by-election in New Westminster
Ballot vote election
A by-election to fill a vacant seat on the New Westminster school board is propsoed for Feb. 3, 2024.

A by-election will be held on Feb. 3, 2024 to fill the seat on the school board vacated by former trustee Dee Beattie.

At its Nov. 20 meeting, city council will consider a staff recommendation to appointment a chief election officer and a deputy chief election officer for the upcoming school board by-election. The timeline for the election shows that the general voting day will be Feb. 3 and advance voting is set for Jan. 24 and 31.

The by-election will fill a trustee seat formerly held by Beattie, who resigned in September after going on a medical leave of absence from the board of education in June. That came after New West resident Sarah Arboleda posted a thread on Twitter on June 14 suggesting Beattie was using a fake “Allan Whitterstone” Twitter account to troll parents, including herself, and other individuals – an allegation Beattie admitted to and apologized for two days later.

Immediately after Beattie’s actions were brought to light, the school board requested her resignation, but it didn’t have the authority under the School Act to force her to step down.  At its Sept. 26 meeting – the first of the 2023-24 school year – the board announced Beattie had resigned from her position on the board.

At city council’s Sept. 25 meeting, chief administrative officer Lisa Spitale told council the city would contract out the work around the by-election because of staff shortages. She said the city would send the invoices to the school district, which would pick up the tab.

On Nov. 20, council will consider a staff recommendation to appoint Mark Brown as chief election officer and Kelly Wharton as deputy chief election officer for the by-election.

“The city has contracted out the role of chief election officer and hired a temporary deputy chief election officer in response to the current city workload challenges, and in response to council’s desire that the election not prevent the important work of the strategic plan from moving forward,” said the report.

The timeline outlined in the report states the nomination period will begin on Dec. 19 and will end on Dec. 29. The campaign period will begin on Jan. 6, 2024.

To date, three candidates have indicated they will be running in a by-election to fill the seat on the school board: Kathleen Carlsen of the New West Progressives, who ran in the 2022 election and was less than 40 votes shy of the final seat on the board; Alejandro Diaz, an independent who previously ran in the 2018 school board election; and Shawn Sorensen, an independent making his first run for a seat on the board.

The Record has reached out to Community First New West, whose candidates won six of the seven seats on the school board (including Beattie) in the October 2022 local election.

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