Gardiner to face electoral probe

Alderman Samuel Gardiner
Alderman Samuel Gardiner

AN UPPER Bann MLA is to be investigated by the Electoral Commission after it was claimed he refused to help constituents because they did not vote.

Last week, the ‘MAIL’ reported that one man, who feared losing his job, contacted the UUP’s Sam Gardiner seeking help.

Mr Gardiner, in a written response to the constituent, replied: “I am personally very concerned about this change over, but disappointed to learn from our records that you did not make an effort to vote in the last election.”

He apologised for the gaffe, describing it as a “mistake”, and said he would make sure it would never happen again.

However, after the ‘MAIL’ printed the story, we were contacted by two constituents saying the same thing happened to them.

One of them, Ivan Maguire, said he has a similar experience with the MLA at the end of the summer.

He approached Mr Gardiner over an issue he had with a planning application.

He said: “When I went to him he went up to a young man who works in his office and told him to look on the computer

“He said to me ‘you did not vote in the last election and neither did your wife’.

“I normally would vote, but I think I was in hospital at the time of the election, so I didn’t think much of it.

He continued: “I think it’s a terrible way for a politician to act.”

Waringstown man David Scott also contacted the ‘MAIL’ about Mr Gardiner.

“He made the same mistake with my father, Mervyn, two weeks ago,” said Mr Scott.

“My father contacted Mr Gardiner for support after he encountered some issues with private contractors installing street lighting for the DOE outside his home.

“Mr Gardiner’s secretary said she would have the MLA ring him back.

“My father managed to get the issue resolved himself and he was about to contact Mr Gardiner to make him aware that his assistance was no longer required.”

He received a phone call from Mr Gardiner’s office who also pointedf out she had checked the Marked Register and had noticed the man did not vote in last May’s Election.

Mr Scott said he was “appalled” at the response, and contacted the Equality Commission and the Electoral Commission on the matter.

He continued: “Whether we voted or not is none of his business, he has to represent everyone equally.”

Mr Scott added: “If he is not prepared to represent his constituents equally, he should seriously consider his position.”

A spokesperson for Sam Gardiner insisted that the issue was a “non-story”.

He said: “The original apology stands. Sam Gardiner will work for any of his constituents. There’s no question of this.

“It’s not as if there are hundreds of people out there with the same complaint. People know he is a hard constituency worker.

“He has worked hard for people from Kilwilke as well as Free Presbeterians. He repesents everyone.

“For people to try and put this kind of light on Sam Gardiner is just dishonest.”

The spokesperson added: “You are at the limit of this. It’s just a non-story.”

The Electoral Commission said it was “entirely legal” for MLAs to have access to information on who voted for “research or electoral purposes”.

However, a spokesperson said that “using information outside this remit is not allowed”.

“The matter has been reported and an investigation will take place so therefore further comment cannot be made at this stage,” the spokesperson added.