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Put it on the table

By now the ballots have been counted and the voice of the citizens have spoken regarding who will represent us in the House of Assembly for the next four years.

 I want to congratulate them for their success and hope that their commitment to the people remains their primary reason for seeking election to the office they now hold and that they will serve with that uppermost in their minds.

I enjoyed reading Mark Griffin’s letter to the editor in Thursday’s Advertiser and found it to be informative and timely. The process outlined and options should be discussed openly within council chambers and not be a fait accompli.

The citizens should be provided the opportunity to elect a mayor and/or councillor.

The town should not be left short for the remaining term, particularly when we have approximately two years before we can choose a person who we feel should be mayor and provide the leadership and experience that this office requires for the town to be successful and a place that people are proud to call home.

If the existing council members should decide to elevate our deputy mayor to the mayor’s office, and the councillor with the second highest number of votes to deputy mayor, then it could easily be perceived that a conflict of interest would arise. I would suggest that Deputy Mayor Barry Manual or Coun. Rodney Mercer would not be able to vote on that, as there would be a monetary gain to both, thereby causing a conflict of interest. So, in essence we would have four councillors deciding who our mayor and deputy mayor will be for the remainder of the term, and I feel that is unacceptable. It should be the citizens’ choice and not left to council’s devices. This discussion may not be necessary but should stimulate debate as it is a bridge that we may have to cross.

During a recent convention of Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador, a motion was moved by the Town of Grand Falls-Windsor that any elected official seeking election to provincial or federal office would have to take an approved leave if they were successful and been declared the candidate. This motion was amended to include documentation as well, as by virtue of holding office a person might be privy to information that others could not reasonably access, causing a conflict of interest.

It is, at times, difficult to wrap our thoughts around, but the conflict of interest guidelines are not designed to be punitive, but to relieve councillors from having to make choices where they may have a monetary interest, whether directly or indirectly, and to govern themselves accordingly.

I cannot grasp how, at a December 2014 council meeting, a capital borrowing motion was approved for $1,726,557 with a vote of seven, with no contrary minded or conflict of interest declared, which I feel is a conflict of interest. At least a query could be made to the Department of Municipal Affairs for clarification, if indeed the conflict of interest regulations were breached.

It is my understanding that a portion of this loan is to be used to erect a new building for the Corduroy Brook Association. I could perhaps support this planned expenditure but have concern as the deputy mayor is the executive director and this causes me to believe that a contravention of the conflict of interest rules has occurred.

It is interesting to note that a conflict of interest was declared on the same date when a request for funding for a $1,356 snowblower for the Corduroy Brook Association was moved for adoption and resulted in the deputy mayor declaring himself in a conflict of interest.

In July 2014, after a citizen questioned council regarding the deputy mayor and funding for Corduroy Brook, council voted that they didn’t believe a conflict had occurred.

I feel that empowering themselves to be judge and jury demonstrates the lack of leadership and this question should have been sent to Municipal Affairs for a unbiased opinion.

I hope council uses better decision making on our future mill rate for 2016, as citizens can ill afford a tax increase.

The town’s operating cost has not increased to the level of our assessed values and consequently our mill rates should be reduced to reflect the actual cost of operating and not used as a means to recover money lost on this year’s Salmon Festival.

I would suggest there be a single line entry in our budget to explain how we are to recover this cost.

Remember, accountable and transparent is all that we have heard for the past six months and we expect the same from our municipal government.


Jim Courtney


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