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A judge will be asked to decide Darren Hill’s future on Saskatoon city council

Darren Hill’s future on Saskatoon city council will rest in the hands of a Court of Queen’s Bench judge.

His council colleagues voted unanimously to direct the city solicitor’s office to file an application with the Court of Queen’s Bench to rule on whether Hill should be disqualified from his role.

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The Ward 1 city councillor was 16 days late to file his campaign expense disclosure earlier this year, meaning he could be required to resign from his role.

Ward 5 Coun. Randy Donauer said he voted for a judge to consider the case because he didn’t want councillors to “sweep this under the carpet.”

“Bylaw violations are very serious, especially an election bylaw, where rules are strictly enforced and equity and fairness are of extreme importance,” Donauer said.

Mayor Charlie Clark said a judge’s decision would provide the most clarity and ensure the most public confidence in the outcome.

“To have a judge independently evaluate a situation, to me, that does make the most sense,” Clark said.

As the application proceeds through the court, Hill will remain an active member of council, allowing him to attend meetings and vote.

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The judge can determine if Hill is disqualified from council, or decide his error “arose through inadvertence or by reason of an honest mistake” and dismiss the application, according to the Cities Act. There is no timeline for a judge’s decision.

Hill’s future on city council was drawn into question after Hill violated the city’s Campaign Disclosure and Spending Limits Bylaw, which states any elected official who misses the expense disclosure deadline “is disqualified from Council and shall resign immediately.”

He has not stepped down.

Hill said he was dealing with symptoms of COVID-19, including brain fog, confusion and fatigue. Combined with the effects of a head injury in late 2016, Hill told Global News he made “an inadvertent and honest mistake.” The councillor said he provided his colleagues and the city clerk with a medical note confirming his medical issues.

In an emotional address, Hill also cited the death of his youngest son.

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“This is agonizing beyond compare, and I continue to deal with the pain of his sudden loss,” said Hill, who also said his 19-year relationship recently came to an end.

Former city councillor Ann Iwanchuk also addressed council, recalling how the mayor contacted her in early January, informing her that Hill had missed his first two standing policy committee meetings of the year. Since then, she and Hill have spoken “almost daily.”

She asked councillors to accept Hill’s late filing, keep him in office and take no further action.

“He was in crisis mode, but I can assure you that he is taking the steps necessary to get the help he needs,” Iwanchuk said.

Hill, who represents Ward 1, was first elected to city council in 2006. He held onto his seat in November’s civic election by a 56-vote margin. Runner-up Kevin Boychuk was also among the nine people who failed to meet the campaign disclosure deadline.

Hill’s $14,977.49 in expenses were below the roughly $23,000 limit for prospective city councillors, but they were filed on March 4 instead of Feb. 16.

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