Nothing less than a public apology
Coombs says controversy could have been avoided
Apparently apologizing for some of the remarks made on Facebook (social network website) isn’t going to earn Harbour Grace resident Pauline Yetman the opportunity to speak at a council meeting. At least not as far as mayor Don Coombs is concerned.
“Offering an apology for some of the remarks made on Facebook isn’t good enough,” said Coombs. “Ms Yetman has to apologize publicly for all, not some of, the accusations she made against council. Until then she won’t be given the opportunity to speak in the chambers.”
Yetman, who has been very vocal about the garbage thrown around town, had asked to speak at a March 8 regular council meeting. However before that happened Coombs insisted she apologize to council for remarks she posted on the Facebook group “ Speak Loud and Let Your Voice be Heard in Harbour Grace.”
“ She made some pretty nasty remarks about council members including calling us useless and saying the town was being run by an elite group of people and even referenced a religious denomination as contributing to some of the problem,” said Coombs. “Some of the remarks were pretty slanderous and before she is given the opportunity to speak in chambers she has to apologize for making them.”
After Coombs reiterated this view during a March 8 council meeting, Yetman, who was sitting in the back of the room, with a small group of supporters said. “ I apologize for some of the remarks made on Facebook.”
Yet mans apology nearly got her escorted out of the building by the police.
“ 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,” Coombs responded.
The mayor doesn’t regret how he handled the situation.
“Apologizing that way, for making some comments didn’t mean she was going to be allowed to speak at the meeting that day,” he said. “ That’s not what I meant at all. I was making the point that she needed to retract some of the things she has said. Once she did that, her presentation would be put on the agenda at a future meeting and then she could speak.” Place of respect Coombs says the council chambers are governed by a set of rules that apply to all.
“ Whether the people in this town like me or not, they share my view that the council chambers is a place of respect and should be shown respect,” he says. “ You just can’t have people speaking out in a meeting. It
“There are a lot of unhappy people in town and it isn’t council who they are unhappy with. Some of the photos on Facebook and in the paper identify businesses, and people are upset. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them take legal action.”
—Don Coombs, mayor of Harbour Grace
doesn’t happen in any other council chambers and we don’t do it here. I just can’t allow it. These are the rules of a council and we all have to abide by them. Look, I have been physically assaulted in the past and councillors have been threatened. I had to call the police then and if I have to I’ll do it again. There’s an orderly fashion, a process to be followed in dealing with conflict and chairing a council meeting. That’s just the way it is.” No wrongdoing After she apologized Yetman, and her eight supporters, sat quietly for the remainder of the March 8 meeting.
“ She did conduct herself well. I have to give her that,” says Coombs. “Her letter was tabled and that was all we could do at that time.”
Coombs says Yetman will be invited to speak to council in the future, but only if she apologizes first for all, not some, of the comments she has made about council.
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“I don’t mind anyone making a complaint or wanting to see an issue addressed, but I do not appreciate being blamed for doing something I didn’t. Ms. Yetman has accused council and myself of numerous things including fudging the town’s books, which is absolutely not true and it’s a dangerous statement to be making. Our books are audited on a regular basis and handled by accountants. There’s no wrongdoing going on and I really resent her saying otherwise. Saying we are fudging the books is a strong statement for her to be making and she needs to be careful about what she is saying. If she wants to speak she is going to have to issue a public apology for those statements.”
Coombs dismisses many of Yetman’s concerns on the cleanliness of the town as well as her claim that council took ideas from a letter she dropped off at the town hall on March 3 and included them on the agenda at last week’s meeting.
“A lot of the suggestions she made are already happening here,” said Coombs. “ We have a Cleaner and Greener program in place to help beautify the town, and acknowledging our volunteers is something we do all the time. Getting a metal and scrap contractor into the town to pick up car wrecks and scrap is also something we’ve been working on for a while. None of these ideas came from her letter. These are plans we have been working on for a while.”
Bashing and slandering
Coombs feels the conflict between Yetman and council could have been avoided if she had just come to him with her concerns.
“She never ever called me, instead she started posting negative comments on Facebook,” he said. “ The comments started last September so she has had plenty of time between then and now to ask for a meeting and talk this out, but she choose a different route, one that involves bashing the town and slandering council members. I don’t support that. However I’m all for working with people and if she had approached me with her concerns we could have fund some solutions that would have benefited the town and all this could have been avoided.”
Possible legal action
The mayor says he is getting calls from business owners and residents about some of the comments and photos posted on Facebook and printed in The Compass.
“There are a lot of unhappy people in town and it isn’t council who they are unhappy with. Some of the photos posted on Facebook and in the paper identify businesses, and people are upset. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of them take legal action.”
HARBOUR GRACE COUNCIL - Members of the Harbour Grace town council discuss issues in their town during a March 8 meeting.