Charville: ‘Dismissal from Territorial Council does not apply in my case’

MARIGOT–Councillor for the Opposition Jules Charville stated Monday that unlike his colleague Alain Richardson who was ejected from the Territorial Council for election campaign account errors, he still remains an elected member of the Council, saved by a particular clause in the Electoral Code.

Charville acknowledged an error in his election campaign account was made which resulted in his account being rejected by the National Commission for Campaign Accounts and Political Financing (CNCCFP), but at the time it was discovered at the 11th hour it was too late to rectify the mistake. As a consequence, his campaign expenditure, some 21,000 euros, was also not reimbursed and he is ineligible for any election for one year.

Under the strict rules of campaigning, a party must have an independent certified public accountant handle the accounts as well as an independent person approved by the Préfecture to manage the accounts, who cannot be present on the party’s list. The ceiling for expenditure is 24,000 euros, an amount Charville was well under.

Campaign money can be spent and received as candidates on the list can also contribute and these are estimations. For example, donation of a pick-up truck for campaigning has a value and is marked down as an estimated cost.

“Where we went wrong is when one of the candidates on my list contributed three flat-bed trailers for our rallies, for the convenience of moving around the island,” Charville explained. “They were mistakenly marked down under the umbrella of her company which was not the case in reality.

“But in the rules, it is stated a company does not have the right to contribute to any campaign, whether by contribution or money. It can only come from another person, another party or a political association. Out of the 21,000 euros the accountant valued the use of the trailers at 3,750 euros.

“This accountant was based abroad and correspondence was done by email. He (the accountant) forgot to mention to me that she needed to make an ‘attestation’ to declare she contributed the three trailers and to mention their ownership. But instead of writing they belonged to her she wrote they belonged to her company. I also overlooked the error but it was too late to rectify the mistake as the deadline had passed and we then braced for a possible reaction.”

The account was rejected by the Commission in October 2017 and the file was then passed on to the Prefecture in St. Martin. Charville subsequently received a letter from the Préfecture in November 2017 confirming the rejection decision but also the opportunity to appeal the decision within 30 days. The candidate with the trailers wrote a new letter to the Préfecture explaining the mistake and apologised. The appeal letter then went to the State Council in January 2018.

Then on March 22, 2018, the State Council upheld the rejection made by the Commission. Secondly, campaign expenditure would not be reimbursed and for one year, Charville cannot participate in any elections.

In its decision, the State Council made reference to Article 118-3 of the Electoral Code but didn’t declare Charville “dismissed from office.” In paragraph four of that article the following is mentioned: “The ineligibility provided for in the first three paragraphs of this article is pronounced for a maximum of three years and applies to all elections. However, it has no effect on mandates acquired prior to the date of the decision.”

“I was elected in March 2017 and the decision was taken April 11, 2018. From that date I can’t go to any election for one year, but I’m still elected,” Charville said.

He is now waiting for official confirmation of his status from the Préfecture.

Source: The Daily Herald