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Devon, Alta., town council will seek to disqualify Anita Fisher following jail sentence

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An elected official for the Town of Devon should be kicked out of her council seat, the town's mayor said Friday, the day after she was sentenced to 120 days in jail.

Anita Fisher pleaded guilty to multiple charges, including criminal harassment and uttering threats.

She also has to serve 18 months of probation, undergo counselling and stay away from her daughter and husband.

"I’m sure there’s some dismay out there at the fact that we have a councillor that has fallen on really difficult times," mayor Jeff Craddock said of the reaction in town.

He said because Fisher has missed regular council meetings for eight consecutive weeks, the legal threshold to have her disqualified, town council will seek a court order to make sure that happens.

"We will fill out the paperwork. But the reality is, the paperwork in the court system today is not a quick return," Jeff Craddock told CTV News Edmonton.

"By the time they see it, deal with it and we get it back, it’s probably a minimum of 18 months."

Fisher has been in custody since September, and was given credit for time served, leaving her with about one week left to serve.

In court Thursday, her lawyer said she is seeking "mental health help, which is what she needs."

Court also heard a victim impact statement from Fisher's daughter, who said she was living in fear of her mother and called it a "nightmarish situation."

A statement from Fisher's husband of more than 40 years, Kenneth, said he was "harassed, terrorized, tormented, ridiculed and stalked" by the councillor for two years.

According to Alberta's Municipal Government Act, councillors are only automatically disqualified if they are convicted of a crime punishable by five years or more in prison.

Roberto Noce, a lawyer and former Edmonton city councillor, said Fisher resigning her council seat is the most simple option.

"If the law can't fix that issue, then there's the political side, in that she may want to consider resigning," Noce told CTV News Edmonton.

"And the public in the community, in the municipality, may want to consider putting pressure on that member of council to resign."

The eight-week-absence rule is not automatic, Noce said, and councils have been known to allow some councillors to keep their seats in some cases, including illnesses.

A spokesperson for Alberta Municipal Affairs Minister Ric McIver confirmed Thursday that the minister does have the power to remove a councillor from office, but gave no indication that will happen.

Based on other cases of councillors getting into trouble, Noce believes it's highly unlikely McIver will remove Fisher.

"If [town council] wants to have this member of council removed, I think it will have to be done at a local level and I can't see the minister of municipal affairs getting involved at all," he said.

Regardless of whether or not Fisher is disqualified before the next municipal election, he doesn't see her political career surviving her guilty pleas and resulting sentence.

"Members of council who get into trouble during their term, for whatever reason, and then seek reelection, they tend not to get reelected. The public will remember," he said.

In August, Devon councillors approved sanctions against Fisher including banning her from town hall to "protect the health and safety of the staff."

When the judge asked her if she had anything to say prior to sentencing, Fisher only responded, "I love my family. And I want to be a part of their lives."

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Nav Sangha

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