‘Out of touch’

South River mayor re­sponds to for­mer coun­cil­lor’s con­cerns

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY BUR­TON K. JANES

The mayor of South River is call­ing a for­mer coun­cilor “out of touch,” be­cause of com­ments made in a letter to the edi­tor, which ap­peared in the Aug. 2 is­sue of The Com­pass.

In his cor­re­spon­dence, Larry Stephan de­fended his rep­u­ta­tion by tak­ing is­sue with state­ments Mayor Arthur Pet­ten made in an ear­lier Com­pass story.

Last week, Pet­ten sat down with The Com­pass to make sure “ the records (are) kept straight,” he said.

“ I don’t want to go talk­ing about any­thing that’s not fac­tual,” he added.

The mayor ad­dressed the fol­low­ing four mat­ters in Stephan’s letter:

• In his letter, Stephan ac­cused the mayor of speak­ing out of “proper con­text.”

Ac­cord­ing to Pet­ten, Stephan’s coun­cil seat was de­clared va­cant when he missed seven out of 13 meet­ings. The pro­vin­cial Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties Act states a coun­cil­lor who is ab­sent from “ three suc­ces­sive months” of reg­u­lar meet­ings is au­to­mat­i­cally off coun­cil.

Stephan stated he missed only nine out of 24 meet­ings.

How­ever, Pet­ten item­ized 13 out of 23 meet­ings Stephan had missed be­tween April 2009 and May 11, 2011.

“ I ’ ve got records to show he missed these meet­ings,” the mayor said.

• In his letter, Stephan claimed: “con­trol over the coun­cil and the ad­min­is­tra­tion of the town are now di­rectly un­der the in­flu­ence of the mayor.”

Pet­ten re­ferred Stephan to the pro­vin­cial Mu­nic­i­pal Coun­cil­lors’ hand­book, which al­lows a mayor “a greater ad­min­is­tra­tive over­sight re­spon­si­bil­ity than other mem­bers of coun­cil.”

“ The mayor al­ready has more con­trol and more power, if I can use the word, over mem­bers of coun­cil,” Pet­ten said.

How­ever, he was quick to add, “it’s not that the mayor wants to over­ride any­thing.”

The hand­book also sub­jects the mayor “to the direc­tion and con­trol of coun­cil and ( the mayor) must abide by any de­ci­sion of coun­cil.”

“ That doesn’t mean the mayor has not got more con­trol,” Pet­ten as­serted.

Again, he in­sisted, “ I don’t want more con­trol.”

• In his letter, Stephan said the mayor “ has now se­cured the ma­jor­ity vote in­flu­ence on coun­cil with the ar­rival of his wife as the new coun­cil­lor.”

The mayor’s wife, Joyce Pet­ten, was sworn in as coun­cil­lor re­plac­ing Stephan in the reg­u­lar coun­cil meet­ing of Aug. 3.

The mayor is con­vinced more than one coun­cil­lor is “in on this,” he said.

He won­ders how hav­ing his wife on coun­cil is any dif­fer­ent from the fact that “the mayor of Spa­niard’s Bay got his daugh­ter on (coun­cil).”

Coun. Sherri Collins serves on the Spa­niard’s Bay town coun­cil with her mayor fa­ther, John W. Drover.

“If the two of us de­cide we’ll vote the same ev­ery time, it means noth­ing when it comes to do­ing any­thing,” Pet­ten ar­gued.

• In his letter, Stephan claimed the “ town ne­glected to hire a main­te­nance per­son or stu­dents for the an­nual main­te­nance and clean-up tasks.”

Pet­ten’s re­sponse was abrupt: “that is to­tally false.” Kevin Rose from Bri­gus is now the town’s main­te­nance man, and a stu­dent — Rikki Tip­ple of South River — fin­ished up on Fri­day of last week as main­te­nance and clean-up per­son.

“As a mayor, I want ev­ery­thing trans­par­ent,” Pet­ten con­cluded. “ I want the town to know about ev­ery­thing.”

Arthur Pet­ten, the mayor of the Town of South River, is stand­ing in front of the town of­fice.

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