The Town of Irricana confirmed its official byelection results on May 24, showing Jim Bryson will occupy the fifth council seat after amassing 109 votes.
According to the results, 297 votes were cast by Irricana’s residents on May 17. While voter turnout is not calculated by the municipality, Irricana has a population of just over 1,200 residents, according to 2016 census data.
Candidate Stephanie Katelnikoff received a total of 81 votes to finish as runner-up to Bryson, Julie Sim had 58 votes, Nathaniel Fleming had 31 votes, and Jeremie Page received 18 votes.
Voting day was blighted by an altercation involving one of the candidates and a scrutineer – an incident that has led to a Beiseker RCMP investigation and a restraining order being filed.
As of press time, Beiseker Mounties continues to investigate an alleged assault that took place at the Irricana Town office, where the polling station was located on May 17.
Candidate Stephanie Katelnikoff claimed she was forcefully removed from the office following a disagreement regarding her right to be present at the polling station – a right that was confirmed by a representative from Alberta's ministry of municipal affairs.
“Under Section 67(1) of the Local Authorities Election Act (LAEA), a candidate is allowed to be present at the voting station to observe the voting process. However, the LAEA also states under Section 69(3) that if the candidate appoints a scrutineer or an official agent and that individual is present, then the candidate is not allowed to be there,” stated Scott Johnston, press secretary of municipal affairs, in an email.
“In other words, only one representative from a candidate’s team is allowed to be there at any one time.”
Katelnikoff claimed she had issues during the advanced polling day a week earlier when her scrutineer was allegedly removed by the returning officer, so she decided to act as her own scrutineer during election day.
She explained that while she was talking to a couple outside the polling station on May 17 who had just cast their vote, a man she claims she didn’t know came out taking photos or videos of her. She said there was no concern about her soliciting votes, as the couple had already cast their vote.
Katelnikoff said she entered the town office to ask the man why he took photos of her, to which he allegedly responded she wasn’t allowed to be there and should leave.
“He never identified himself by name or title. There was nothing to suggest he was anyone other than a complete stranger who happened to be at the town office,” Katelnikoff said.
The family of Bob Day, who Katelnikoff and other witnesses later identified as the man telling her to leave, responded to the Rocky View Weekly's request for comment with the following statement:
“Because the investigation is still ongoing, Bob cannot make a comment at this time,” the statement reads.
The town’s CAO Barrie Hutchinson wrote in an email that Mr. Day was and is not an employee of the Town of Irricana, but that he was a candidate scrutineer for the byelection.
With the local authorities' elections act in hand, Katelnikoff said she had sat down to call municipal affairs to confirm her right to be at the polling station. She alleged Mr. Day pulled her chair from under her and dragged her out into the foyer.
Ted Coffey, one of the eyewitnesses of the altercation and a former CAO for the Town of Irricana, was in the middle of filling out his statutory declaration in preparation to cast his ballot when he heard arguing behind him.
Coffey recognized Katelnikoff as a candidate, he said. Next thing he knew, Mr. Day allegedly became physical.
“I know for a fact that she is allowed to be there and he was just manhandling her trying to drag her out in a bear-hug basically,” Coffey said about what he saw next.
Coffey said he was hesitant to intervene but felt what he saw was wrong. When another man came in from the street after hearing yelling inside, he and Coffey pulled Mr. Day away from Katelnikoff, according to Coffey’s account.
“We both grab his forearms and try to pull him off her,” he said. “We succeeded in pulling him off her and we were just going like, ‘Calm down, buddy.’”
Other eyewitnesses at the polling station were interviewed and corroborated with Coffey's account, but asked to remain anonymous.
Once safely in her car, Katelnikoff called 911 and received a call back from municipal affairs, who were concerned about the voicemail they just received containing yelling and crying.
Katelnikoff said Mr. Day then came outside and circled her car before she drove away.
The altercation and a subsequent call to Beiseker RCMP were confirmed to the Rocky View Weekly by Cpl. Gina Slaney, RCMP media relations officer for Southern Alberta.
“Each investigation varies regarding the time it takes to complete. There are a lot of people involved and you have to keep in mind the officers don’t work every day. Sometimes it takes some time before they can arrange to meet with people,” said Slaney, who added she could provide no further comment.
Following the incident, Hutchinson stated the Town would not provide comment while the investigation is ongoing.
Katelnikoff returned to the polling station later in the evening to act as her own scrutineer and said Mr. Day was no longer present. She has since provided a statement to the police and claimed she filed for a restraining order against Mr. Day.