Group wanting cleaner town needs to clean up its act
While a group who want a cleaner town may be sincere in their campaign, the mayor of Harbour Grace feels their cause has lost its focus and degenerated into a personal smear campaign.
The mayor of Harbour Grace says the social network Facebook group “Speak Now and Let Your Voice be heard in Harbour” has lost its focus to clean up the town and has descended into a personal smear campaign against him and town councillors and workers.
“From what I am being told it is no longer about cleaning up the town or making improvements, it’s all about making personal attacks on me,” says Don Coombs.
“I haven’t been on the site, but according to what is being told to me some of the comments that are being posted about me and other town workers are unfair, untrue and downright slanderous.”
The Facebook group was established a few months ago after town resident Pauline Yetman began expressing concerns about the condition of the town.
Yetman and several others are listed as administrators of the group. For the most part Coombs has been able to laugh it all off, but he says the situation has now gotten out of control.
“My character has been attacked,” he says. “Not only on Facebook, but also in the media. Many of things I am being blamed for saying and doing I did not do.”
The mayor says he did not tear up letters from concerned citizens at last weeks (March 29) council meeting.
“As God is my witness I did not do that,” he says. “I did tear up one unsigned letter, and I have thrown away many unsigned letters over the years, but I’ve never ever destroyed a letter signed by a resident. Like all other councils we have a policy in place that all letters have to be signed before they are tabled. I was just following protocol.”
Coombs also takes exception to Yetman’s claim that none of the councillors were given copies of the letters at last week’s meeting.
“ That’s not true. They all had copies. I’ve never ever purposely withheld information or letters from councillors.”
Budget in place
The Compass called the town office and was told Town Manger Lester Forward had compiled the information package for the councillors.
“ The letters from the residents were all included,” said Forward.
According to the manager the unsigned letter from “Posh” was dropped off at the council office on March 9. “ That’s the documented date,” he said. Forward refutes Yetman’s allegation that the 2010-2011 town budget hasn’t been completed.
“ The budget was not only prepared well ahead of the deadline set by government, but was adopted by council in a special meeting Dec. 23 (2009)” he said. “It was also posted in the paper and is a public document. Any resident who wants a copy of that budget can request it. They can drop by the council office and pick it up.”
Reputations under attack
Meanwhile Mayor Coombs says the comments posted on the Facebook website have gone too far.
“ The reputations of some of our town workers and councillors have been attacked.
People have been accused of things they haven’t done and that’s what bothers me the most,” said Coombs. “Some of these people are very hurt and upset. It is so unfair. You shouldn’t be allowed to treat people like that, to tell lies and drag someone’s name through the mud on a public domain like Facebook. “
Coombs says most of the nasty comments posted have come from people with an axe to grind.
“People with a personal grudge against me or the council,” he said.” People who have applied for jobs and haven’t gotten them, had their water cut, didn’t get their driveways ploughed or had some other kind of issue with the town, including legal issues, and of course when that happens they blame me... they’re out around saying Don Coombs cut my water or Don Coombs took me to court or did this or that. That’s how it is with this position and for the most part I expect and accept it, but this stuff on Facebook has gone way too far because it isn’t only me they are tearing strips off. They’re doing the same to our workers and council members as well.”
Coombs says he is saddened by the entire situation.
“I said right from the beginning this was not handled properly. I would have been more than willing to sit down with Ms. Yetman or anyone else and look at ways of improving the town. If someone wanted to organize a clean up day or go around town picking up garbage, we (council) would have looked at their ideas and helped them out anyway we could. That would have been the right approach. Unfortunately instead of that approach, pictures and names of businesses were posted on-line and town councillors and workers were attacked and I’ve been accused and called almost every name under the sun. That kind of stuff doesn’t make a town better not the way to make a town better, it only causes bad feelings and resentment.”
Not all negative
Coombs says he is proud of his town and hates to see it portrayed in such a negative light.
“ We’ve made lots of efforts to keep the town clean. We don’t have one or two clean up days a year, every week is clean up. Residents can put whatever garbage they have including the big stuff like barbeques out and it will be hauled away,” said Coombs. “ There are many new developments taking place and announcements of government funding happening all the time. Yes some businesses have closed down, but that happens in every town, many new businesses have opened and new groups and organizations started up too. That Facebook group never looked at any of this. When someone is counting the negative, they should also consider the positive.”
The mayor says many of the allegations and nasty comments are coming from people who do not even live in Harbour Grace.
“ That doesn’t even make sense... it’s all about personal agendas I think. Anyway this Facebook group has gone from wanting to clean up the garbage around town to trashing reputations.”
FACEBOOK GROUP - The social network Facebook group “Speak Loud and Let Your Voice be Heard in Harbour Grace” was established to encourage residents to help clean and beautify the town.