Mayor in con­flict, says councillor

De­bate con­tin­ues over name­less road in Car­bon­ear

The Compass - - NEWS - BY TERRY ROBERTS

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

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