CARBONEAR, NL — David Kennedy is asking those who disagreed with the town council’s decision to remove Frank Butt from the mayor’s seat to show some common decency towards councillors, town staff and their families.
Kennedy, an eight-year veteran of council, shared a pair of lengthy public posts on his Facebook account last week addressing council’s decision to vacate Butt’s seat in response to an anonymous letter containing a conflict of interest allegation against Butt, who was elected mayor last September. Council voted on the issue in December.
“I have made tough decisions and have had my skin thickened a bit. But the actions of people towards elected officials as well as competent knowledgeable staff was and still is unwarranted,” Kennedy wrote.
He highlighted situations where council members have been insulted and belittled in public. Kennedy said town staff have also been ridiculed and insulted unfairly. In one case, he said the son of a female council member heard from another kid who said their mom used a vulgar term to describe the child’s mother on council.
“Really in this day and age adults are conversing in such a manner in front of children. What gain is garnered in that despicable act?”
To help the town grow, Kennedy said there’s a need for people from all walks of life to feel compelled to represent the community’s interests and serve on council. He said the current situation is setting them back.
“This one vote has made people wonder why people would want to be in such positions? Why offer oneself to such character assassinations and backlash (even to your family) when after every tough decision people resort to name-calling and displaying inappropriate childish behaviours. To what extent are such actions appropriate?
“This note is not asking for support, but rather common decency for the people elected and the great people who manage our Town. Respect for the women who don’t deserve to be called ‘duckies,’ respect for children who don’t deserve to have their parents name called and respect for the administration of our Town, which involves public meetings. It involves people waiting for the proper appeal(s) to happen so that the decision can be upheld or overturned.”
Kennedy said all six of the remaining councillors agree the penalty was too stiff for Butt, but it was the only one legislatively they could apply. In a comment made to one of his posts, Kennedy added the Municipalities Act’s conflict of interest policy is outdated.
The conflict of interest allegation concerns a motion Butt introduced and voted on in 2014 to remove a derelict building near a gas station he owned. The motion was defeated, though the property on Water Street was subsequently sold and the building torn down less than two years later.
Council received the anonymous letter approximately two weeks before the Sept. 26 municipal election. Legal advice from the town’s lawyer did not come until after Butt’s victory.
A two-day hearing for Butt’s appeal of council’s decision is set for March 8-9 at the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador in St. John’s.
“I will state that if the seat is retained, it will be the best kind with this council as he was the people’s choice and the high Court made a decision,” Kennedy wrote. “Council even noted that the decision should have been made there initially, but councils have to deal with the issue as noted by (Municipal Affairs) and in this case noted a conflict existed.”
He added council was not in a position to turn a blind eye to the allegation, even if it came from an anonymous source. Kennedy said had council chosen not to act on the matter and it came back to Municipal Affairs again, the department could have dismissed all members.
“I for one had nothing to do with the said letter and like the other councillors I did not like the idea of him being removed. For people to state it was orchestrated was simply an attempt to divert attention.”