Noth­ing less than a pub­lic apol­ogy

Coombs says con­tro­versy could have been avoided

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY DENISE PIKE

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.

From Page A1

“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.”

Town plans

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.”

Denise Pike/The Com­pass

HAR­BOUR GRACE COUN­CIL - Mem­bers of the Har­bour Grace town coun­cil dis­cuss is­sues in their town dur­ing a March 8 meet­ing.

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