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Council hopefuls in Point Douglas cry foul over conduct of fellow candidate

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/9/2018 (620 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Questions are being raised about the conduct of a candidate in the Point Douglas council race who is working for the ward councillor while campaigning to replace him.

Vivian Santos, Coun. Mike Pagtakhan’s assistant is also running in Point Douglas.

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Vivian Santos, Coun. Mike Pagtakhan’s assistant is also running in Point Douglas.

Coun. Mike Pagtakhan is not running for re-election in Point Douglas but his executive assistant, Vivian Santos, is one of three candidates who want his former job.

While the City of Winnipeg Charter requires civic employees who are running for council to take a leave of absence once the nomination period closes (which would be 4:30 p.m. Tuesday), that does not apply to councillors’ executive assistants, who work on contract directly with the councillor.

Santos said she’s been careful to campaign only outside office hours, adding she reworked her contract with Pagtakhan to work part-time, effective Sept. 1.

"I double-checked that I didn’t need to take a leave of absence and that I’m not breaking any laws, and I’m not," Santos said, adding she checked with both the city clerk’s office and the integrity officer to ensure she could continue working.

"So long as I keep my work for councillor Mike separate from campaigning, and don’t use any city resources while campaigning, I can do both."

However, her challengers said the situation is unfair.

Kate Sjoberg

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Kate Sjoberg

"It would be very difficult for a person in her position to respond to the concerns that come to a councillor’s office and divest herself of her election work while doing that," said Kate Sjoberg. "I think she should take a leave of absence.

"She has access to information that no other candidate has. People want a fair fight, and even the perception it might not be fair is not great."

Dean Koshelanyk said the situation is part of the inherent unfairness of an election process that favours incumbents over challengers -- and now an incumbent’s assistant.

"It’s one of those things that we have to deal with," he said. "It’s not the best thing in the world. There are no rules against it other than a person’s own integrity and moral compass."

Dean Koshelanyk registered as a candidate for Point Douglas ward on July 5.

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Dean Koshelanyk registered as a candidate for Point Douglas ward on July 5.

Pagtakhan said he encouraged Santos to run, and said he sees nothing wrong with her continuing to work for him while campaigning in her off-hours.

"There is still work to be done in my constituency office, and Vivian is not breaking any rules," Pagtakhan said.

Santos said her competitors may not like it, but she has no intention of taking a leave of absence.

"I’m not breaking any rules," she said. "I still need a job. We’re a working-class family. We have kids. My mom lives with us now. It would be difficult for me to take a leave of absence for three months."

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