NATIONAL

Will voters be tough on crime?

Three of Brandon’s six mayoral hopefuls are fighting criminal charges

NANCY MACDONALD October 30 2006
NATIONAL

Will voters be tough on crime?

Three of Brandon’s six mayoral hopefuls are fighting criminal charges

NANCY MACDONALD October 30 2006

Will voters be tough on crime?

NATIONAL

Three of Brandon’s six mayoral hopefuls are fighting criminal charges

NANCY MACDONALD

“My criminal record is clean,” laughs Beth Smale, who is running for mayor of Brandon, Man., on Oct. 25. There’s a reason Smale is so forthcoming about her history. Three of her five fellow candidates are dogged by criminal charges.

Brandon is Manitoba’s second city, an unpretentious, conservative burg of42,000. A hog-slaughtering plant is among the city’s biggest employers; the average house sells for

THE RACE FOR CITY HALL’S TOP JOB HAS BEEN ‘OFF THE WALL’

$120,000. The place is still small enough, Brandonites say, that everybody knows everybody. So—everyone knows that Nickolas Avlonitis, the youngest mayoral hopeful, has been charged with assaulting fellow candidate Deveryn Ross. And that Ross, a disbarred lawyer, is fighting a conviction for two counts of fraud.

And that a warrant was recently issued for the arrest of fringe candidate Deborah Boschman—the sister of former Ottawa Senators captain Laurie Boschman—for failing to appear in court on charges of break and enter and assault. “It’s embarrassing,” says Ross, owner of Front Row Media Enterprises, of his run-in with Avlonitis, 26, a self-employed contractor. “But it’s part of the soap opera that is this election.”

According to Ross, 45, Avlonitis’s mother, Brenda, had allowed him to put up signs on her lawn over the Labour Day weekend. (Ross was one of Brandon’s few Liberals when Brenda Avlonitis ran for the party in a provin-

cial election back in the ’80s.) He says he wasn’t aware Avlonitis intended to run for mayor. “My son and I went over on a Saturday, and Brenda came out and helped us put the signs in the ground. Nicko dropkicked the first sign, destroying it. He was livid, yelling profanities. He shoved my son, Duncan, who is 12. Then he threatened to kill me if I ever came back.” Avlonitis, who is scheduled to appear in court on Oct. 30, claims he did not touch Ross or his son, and uttered no threats. “Deveryn Ross is a criminal,” he says. “The fact that the city would even entertain his candidacy is ridiculous.” (There is no provision under Manitoba law that disqualifies Ross from running.)

As Ross tells it, he was raised in financial straits by a single mom. Boyish-looking and silver-tongued, he left Brandon to study law at Dalhousie. Before turning 30, Ross was a top local lawyer, had an exclusive Brandon address, and a weekly column in the Brandon Sun. Then, in 1995, he was convicted of two counts of fraud arising out of a failed Perkins restaurant venture, and served four months

at the Brandon Correctional Centre. In 2004, he applied to have his conviction reviewed, based on evidence uncovered after the fact. Flis case is ongoing.

So is Deborah Boschman’s. Her legal woes stem from an alleged fight with her neighbour over the ownership of a puppy. A warrant for her arrest, says the 50-year-old elementary school teacher on the Birdtail Sioux Dakota Nation northwest of Brandon, was issued after her lawyer missed a scheduled court appearance on Sept. 18, although police have not acted on it.

The campaign has “been a little bit off the wall,” admits Mayor Dave Burgess, 47, standing for re-election as the presumed frontrunner (the sixth candidate is Mike Abbey, an employment counsellor). Burgess and Smale, 56, a two-term council member, worry that Brandon’s reputation may be blackened by its wild politics. “But,” says Smale, “that’s the way democracy works in this country.” M