By John Nagy
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Oliver Paipoonge, Ont.- Only a clause in his social services worker contract has kept Obie Egbuchulam from becoming the Crooks Township councillor for the Municipality of Neebing.
Egbuchulam said he will not be taking the councillor’s position to represent Crooks Township due to a conflict of interest at his job with the Nokiiwin Tribal Council.
The fetal alcohol spectrum disorder social services worker, who would have had to take a leave of absence from his job to take the councillor position, said the organization has a clause in their contracts that prohibits employees from taking political office.
“(Nokiiwin) is apolitical and they don’t want employees to be involved in elective positions and represent their best interests, especially if the areas they are representing has (political) links with the communities that Nokiiwin represents,” said Egbuchulam on Nov 8. “It’s a conflict of interest . . . I got to know (the
clause) afterwards and I tried all I could to see if the policy could be changed, but the (Nokiiwin) board upheld it.”
Egbuchulam won the seat in dramatic fashion. Tied 79-79 in votes after the Oct. 24 municipal election and a recount on Oct. 26 with incumbent Brian Wright, Egbuchulam’s name was drawn from a bowl to be the next Crooks councillor.
There was a legislated 15-day waiting period in place to allow for a judicial recount application to be filed, but Egbuchulam’s bowing out due to the conflict of interest leaves Wright declared as the Crooks councillor.
Egbuchulam is proud of the votes he received and will continue to do work for the Neebing community outside the council chambers.
“I will be going on committees and getting actively involved through volunteerism in the community and any other way I could,”
Egbuchulam said. “I was trying to replace (Wright). You feel it is an uphill battle. That is one of the reasons why it put more fire under my feet.
“(Wright) is from this area and he’s been around for quite some time and he’s well known.
“I knew to replace (Wright) was going to be an uphill battle. I never took (the election) for granted. I worked hard. I knocked on almost all the doors.
“I feel so humbled, I feel even overwhelmed that it was even a tie that people would come out (and vote for me). `We don’t know this guy. He’s been here for like only five years. He comes from a different background, but we believe in him enough to give him a chance.’ That tells me a lot.”
The rest of Neebing’s seven-member council consists of Mark Thibert (mayor) as well as councillors Gordon Cuthbertson (at-large), Katherine Hill (Blake), Brian Kurikka (Scoble), Curtis Coulson (Pardee) and Gary Gardner (Pearson).
Kurikka, Coulson and Gardner ran unopposed and had their positions acclaimed.
John Nagy is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with THE CHRONICLE-JOURNAL/ The LJI is a federally funded program. Turtle Island News does not receive LJI funding.