LETHBRIDGE, Alta. (CP) – A city alderwoman who made headlines earlier this year after disappearing while in Montana on a business trip pleaded not guilty Monday to a charge of public mischief.

Lethbridge Ald. Darlene Heatherington did not appear in provincial court. Her defence lawyer, Tracy Hembroff, spoke on her behalf. Hembroff indicated Heatherington, 40, has opted to be tried by judge alone and has waived her right to a preliminary hearing. A 10-day trial is to begin January 26.


“I thought about it long and hard and hate to say it, but I would probably have to go half way around the world to find a jury that hasn’t heard about this case,” Hembroff said outside court.


“It’s my opinion that a jury would have been a gamble.”


Police laid the charge against Heatherington in June following an eight-month investigation they initiated after she said she was being stalked by an unknown male.


Hembroff said Heatherington is happy a trial date has been set.


“It gives her a timeline. She’s glad to know that at some point in time, one way or the other, it’s going to be over and done with.


“She’s quite satisfied with the route we’re going and happy to put herself, her family, the community and myself through this once.”


Hembroff also said there will be a number of charter issues and challenges of evidence at the trial.


Meanwhile, as a result of public outcry over the incident, Lethbridge city council voted Monday to bar Heatherington from serving as deputy mayor when her name comes up for the rotating job next week.


Council voted 7-1 to strike her name from the rotation. Heatherington was the only member of council to vote against the resolution. …