Mayor in conflict, says councillor
Debate continues over nameless road in Carbonear
The contentious debate over the status of a short gravel road that runs parallel to Columbus Drive (Route 70) in Carbonear has flared once again, with a town councillor charging that Mayor Sam Slade breached conflict of interest rules by voting recently to have the lane graded.
Debate on the issue between Coun. Gladys Mercer and Slade became heated during last week’s council meeting.
“So you voted to upgrade the road … and use the taxpayers’ money to benefit you driving over it every day. Is that not a case of conflict?” Mercer asked.
Slade accused Mercer of making personal attacks against the mayor, and said he, like every taxpayer, should have the right to drive over a decent road.
Slade said he planned to lodge a complaint with the Department of Municipal Affairs, and suggested he would also be contacting a lawyer.
“Enough has been said here today that I certainly will be taking up legal issue with it,” Slade said.
This most recent war of words stems from a July 20 council meeting, during which council voted by a margin of 4-3 to approve the grading of nameless road, which connect English Hill and Bunker Hill roads in the north section of Carbonear. Slade cast the deciding vote.
Slade lives at the top Bunker Hill — a steep street that ascends from Crowdy Street — and routinely uses nameless road to access Columbus Drive. He has previously excused himself from any debate on the issue because of the perception of conflict, but has since become actively engaged in the debate and decision-making process after receiving advice that there was no conflict.
“ I was told that if it was just regular maintenance, I had a right to represent the people of Bunker Hill,” Slade said. “ If we were talking about new pavement, yes, I would be in conflict because it would enhance the value …”
But Mercer argues the gravel lane is not a recognized road, and is actually within the road reservation of Columbus Drive, which is a provincial highway. A sign warns motorist that the gravel lane is not for public use, but for emergencies only. The provincial government has expressed concern about the use of the road because of its proximity to Columbus Drive, but has authorized its use for emergencies. Town officials have also expressed concern about liability issues if the town continues to maintain the road.
Slade does not obey the sign, however, and was recently observed using the road three times in one afternoon.
“ People look at me and say, ‘ What in the world are you paying taxes for at all?’ So I have a right as mayor … to have a decent road to drive over also,” Slade said.
Mercer said citizens have been raising the subject with her, and she believes they deserve clarification.
“ When you declare yourself in conflict once, you’re always in conflict,” said Mercer. “ You can’t change that.”
Slade told The Compass later in the week that “I am a taxpayer, same as anyone else, and I have never spent tax money to my own benefit.”
Council has been wrestling with this issue for many Ash said the matter was not on the agenda.
“If we have an issue with whether or not it is a conflict of interest, and we want to discuss it, it’s not for us to discuss it as a matter of business arising,” he said. Mercer said she would happily discuss the issue at a future council meeting. months. A couple that owns property in the area has been refused a permit to build a house, partly because council does not recognize the road.
Last week’s debate ended abruptly after deputy mayor Ches