Sorry for apologizing
Harbour Grace resident shocked by mayor’s reaction to apology
If Harbour Grace resident Pauline Yetman is ever again asked to apologize to members of the town council, she probably won’t try it during a regular council meeting. The apology Yetman offered last Monday March 8 almost got her thrown out of the town hall by police escort.
“ I’m beyond dumbfounded and shocked,” she said afterwards. “ The mayor asked me to apologize and when I did he threatened to call the police and have me removed from the chambers.”
Yetman attended the council meeting hoping to speak to council about cleaning up the town.
The Harbour Grace native, who moved back home from Mississauga,
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Ontario last July where she resided for the past 22 years, says weeds, trees and garbage have taken over many areas of her historic hometown.
Yetman posted photos of the rundown buildings, scrap and garbage on her personal Facebook account (social network website) and within days the Facebook group “Speak Loud and Let Your Voice be Heard in Harbour Grace” was established.
On March 3 Yetman dropped a letter off at the town council office requesting to speak about the issue at the March 8 council meeting.
She also contacted The Compass and expressed her concerns in last week’s issue
“ When I first moved here I was shocked at the condition of the town. It’s not the Harbour Grace that I remember as a child,” she said. “It makes me emotional to even talk about it,” she says. “I love history and Harbour Grace has so much of it. It’s one of the oldest towns in Conception Bay and on the Avalon Peninsula and should be kept up like Brigus or Cupids are. I feel in my heart that the townspeople have no pride or respect for where they live and I’m heartbroken by what I see.”
Responding to Yetman’s comments, Mayor Coombs said:
“If she (Yetman) wants to change things she should be meeting and working with council - instead of that she is publicly insulting and bashing both us and the town. She made some pretty nasty remarks about council members including calling us useless. She won’t be getting the opportunity to speak until she apologizes to council for some of the remarks she made and has posted on Facebook.”
Coombs reiterated the same view at the March 8 council meeting held at 3:30 p.m. Referring to item 5.1 on the agenda listed under Correspondence as “Pauline Yetman-suggestions to council” Coombs said:
“Ms. Yetman won’t be given the opportunity to speak until she apologizes to members of council and this town for remarks she has made. Once she apologizes, she can speak.”
At that time Yetman, who was sitting quietly in the back of the council chambers with a group of 9 supporters spoke up and said:
“I apologize for some of the remarks made on Facebook.” The mayor responded by saying: “If there are any other outbursts like this the RCMP will be called and the person making them will be escorted out of the building.”
Yetman and her entourage sat quietly for the remainder of the meeting and left just before the in camera session began.
“He asked for an apology and I gave it,” Yetman told The Compass afterward. “He didn’t say it had to be in written form or at a certain time or date. I thought he was waiting for me to give it then and I also thought once I gave it, I would be able to speak. Not only did that not happen, but he threatened to call the police.”
Yetman feels the mayor’s comment to have her escorted out of council chambers was unjustified.
“My jaw and everyone else’s just dropped to our chests,” she said. “No one and I mean no one even made a peep during the meeting. Not once did the mayor have to call order because someone was talking or making a noise. We didn’t go there to have a racket or kick up a fuss, that wasn’t our intention. I could see the mayor responding in that way if we were talking or shouting, but none of the people with me said a word during the proceedings. And I would never conduct myself in that manner anyway.”
Yetman says the town manager Lester Forward called her on the day of the meeting to say her request to speak was denied, however she was hoping the mayor might have had a change of heart.
“ He asked for an apology and gave the impression I could give it then and there, so I did,” she said. “I thought that meant I would be able to speak afterward.”
Meanwhile deputy mayor Terry Barnes felt Yetman as well as councillors were the ones who were owed an apology.
“This situation with Ms. Yetman wasn’t handled right,” Barnes told members of council. “It wasn’t the right approach. She wrote a letter asking council if she could speak last week and didn’t find out until today, the day of our meeting that she was denied. Now that’s not right. As far as I’m concerned the town manager owes council as well as Ms. Yetman an apology for how this was handled.” Mayor Coombs disagreed. “My understanding is that some telephone calls were made to Ms. Yetman last Thursday (March 4) informing her she would have to apologize before she would be allowed to speak, and another was made this morning, however she couldn’t be reached” said Coombs.
Yetman, who has caller ID, says she has no record of any calls from council, other than the call she received last Monday on the day of the meeting.
Towards the end of the meeting Deputy Mayor Barnes requested an apology for Yetman and council once again.
“I just wanted to say that I still feel we all deserve an apology from the town manager,” said Barnes. “I just don’t think that it’s right to call a resident three or four hours before a council meeting and inform them they cannot speak. I don’t agree with that.”
No more apologies
Although Yetman didn’t receive an apology she feels some good came out of the meeting.
“ They (council) talked about hosting a volunteer week and are in the process of getting a recycling company to come into town to remove the scrap and car wrecks that are left around,” she said. “I made these suggestions to council in the letter I dropped off last week. They’re my ideas. I’m glad to see they are moving on them.”
Yetman says the threat of being removed from council chambers doesn’t bother her in the least, but she won’t be offering any more apologies.
“I didn’t start that Facebook group, someone else did. All I did was post a few pictures and it took off from there,” she said. “A picture does paint a thousand words and mayor Coombs can’t excuse the mess this once beautiful town is in today. He can try all he wants to have me thrown out of the town hall, but that doesn’t bother me in the least. And he (Mayor Coombs) better get used to seeing my face because I am going to be at every council meeting and I won’t be apologizing again. I tried that once and almost got booted out of the town hall. I didn’t do anything wrong, but he sure showed his true colours.”
CONCERNED CITIZENS - Pauline Yetman, right, of Harbour Grace and eight other residents attended the regular town council meeting last week hoping to speak to council members about cleaning up the town.
MESSY FOUNTAIN - The fountain at the S.W. Moores Memorial Park in Harbour Grace is one of the areas in town resident Pauline Yetman would like to have cleaned up.