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Former SD46 trustee candidate faces fines from Elections BC

The director of investigations has decided Briar Hartwell will be fined $400

Elections BC has issued a notice that a candidate who ran for a trustee seat on the Sunshine Coast School District No. 46 (SD46) school board is being penalized for her campaign signs.  

Briar Hartwell, also known as Briar Meade-Semel, was among the names on Elections BC’s administrative monetary penalties list posted on May 17. Hartwell has been fined a $400 penalty for “sponsoring election advertising without an authorization statement.” 

The May 16 letter sent from Elections BC to Hartwell states she contravened the Local Elections Campaign Financing Act in October by not including an authorization statement on her election signs during the campaign period. Coast Reporter was unable to reach Hartwell for comment, despite multiple attempts. 

The election results saw SD46 incumbents return to their seats on the school board with the addition of Ann Skelcher. Hartwell received 664 votes and was unsuccessful in her run. 

After Hartwell was initially contacted about a complaint regarding her signs on Oct. 5, she confirmed that she amended the signs on Oct. 7 to include an authorization statement. When an Elections BC investigator tried to follow up several times, Hartwell responded on Nov. 17 that she would send the requested documents the following day. The investigator made four more attempts to contact Hartwell before mailing a letter to request the records, but has not received a response since Nov. 17. 

A disclosure statement to Elections BC on Jan. 13, 2023, states Hartwell spent $728 on election signs. 

The Local Elections Campaign Financing Act requires candidates to ensure their sponsored election advertisements identify the financial agent, indicate it was authorized by the financial agent and provide a BC telephone number, mailing address or email address.

The director of investigations decided to issue a penalty of $400 but could have issued up to $5,000 against Hartwell. The investigator noted the lack of an authorization statement “would not likely have misled a reader to conclude that the ads were sponsored by another individual or organization” and she cooperated to bring herself into compliance once notified. Their review also highlighted that Hartwell was a first-time candidate. It also said Hartwell did not cooperate with the investigation. 

“We have been able to proceed with this matter without the requested information; however, a failure to cooperate with an investigation is a significant factor when assessing a penalty,” the letter said. 

As of May 16, Hartwell has 14 days to request a review of the decision, or 40 days to pay the monetary penalty.