Smear cam­paign

Group want­ing cleaner town needs to clean up its act

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY DENISE PIKE

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.”

Fol­low­ing pro­to­col

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. “

Hid­den agenda

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.”

Bad feel­ings

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.

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