South River coun­cil bans record­ing de­vices

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

Vis­i­tors, in­clud­ing mem­bers of the me­dia, are not per­mit­ted to oper­ate record­ing de­vices in­side the Reid Cham­bers in the South River town of­fice.

That was the mes­sage to a Com­pass reporter prior to the start of the reg­u­lar coun­cil meet­ing on Sept. 7.

Some mem­bers of coun­cil no­ticed the reporter was us­ing a dig­i­tal record­ing de­vice dur­ing a meet­ing in Au­gust, and raised the is­sue prior to the start of last week’s meet­ing.

Ac­cord­ing to Mayor Arthur Pet­ten, the rule has been on the books for at least a decade.

“ Deputy mayor Scott Rose brought it up af­ter you left that meet­ing,” Pet­ten said, “and some­body said the meet­ing was taped.”

Per­mis­sion to record coun­cil meet­ings must be ob­tained in writ­ing in ad­vance, Pet­ten ex­plained.

How­ever, the mayor added that per­mis­sion would not nec­es­sar­ily be granted.

In an in­ter­view with the pa­per af­ter the meet­ing, Pet­ten in­di­cated he was un­aware of the rul­ing un­til it was brought to his at­ten­tion.

“I don’t care who’s there record­ing what,” Pet­ten said. “If I’m afraid (that) what I’m go­ing to say is go­ing to be on a recorder, well, I should keep my mouth shut.”

Mean­while, he in­sisted coun­cil had noth­ing to hide.

If any­thing, he’d like to see more of the pub­lic at­tend reg­u­lar coun­cil meet­ings.

“ That keeps the meet­ing to­gether bet­ter,” he said.

Other mu­nic­i­pal coun­cils al­low

Arthur Pet­ten is mayor of the Town of South River.

voice record­ings, and meet­ings of St. John city coun­cil are broad­cast on com­mu­nity tele­vi­sion.

But ac­cord­ing to a state­ment is­sued by the the Depart­ment of Mu­nic­i­pal Af­fairs last year, “record­ing of pub­lic meet­ings may or may not be per­mit­ted and is at the dis­cre­tion of each coun­cil.”

Sec­ond coun­cil­lor dis­missed

For the sec­ond time in three months, a coun­cilor has been dis­missed from the South River town coun­cil.

Ac­cord­ing to Mayor Pet­ten, Larry Stephan’s coun­cil seat was de­clared va­cant May 12 when he missed seven out of 13 meet­ings. The provin­cial Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties Act states a coun­cilor who misses “three suc­ces­sive months” of reg­u­lar meet­ings is au­to­mat­i­cally off coun­cil.

The same rea­son­ing was ap­plied to Coun. month.

“Coun­cil never put him off,” Pet­ten stated. “He ran out his time” by miss­ing three con­sec­u­tive reg­u­lar coun­cil meet­ings.

“ That’s the Act, that’s the law, that’s the rule,” Pet­ten said.

In a phone in­ter­view with The Com­pass, An­drews said he let the town clerk and an­other coun­cil­lor know in per­son he was re­sign­ing. How­ever, clerk Terri Lynn Aisien said be­cause An­drews sub­mit­ted noth­ing on pa­per, his res­ig­na­tion was in­valid.

Coun­cil in­formed An­drews his coun­cil seat was va­cant.

Melvin

An­drews last

Dif­fi­cult get­ting coun­cilors

South River is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing dif­fi­culty get­ting peo­ple to run for coun­cil, with coun­cilors typ­i­cally de­clared elected by ac­cla­ma­tion.

“Peo­ple got no in­ter­est in (run­ning),” Pet­ten said. “I just don’t know why.”

He won­ders if the prob­lem is that many coun­cilors also work full­time and find it dif­fi­cult to de­vote qual­ity time to coun­cil.

“It’s hap­pen­ing in other towns, but es­pe­cially in smaller towns,” he said.

To ad­dress this con­cern, Pet­ten would like to see more re­tired or semi-re­tired coun­cil­lors.

A re­place­ment for An­drews will not be sought for at least an­other month.

“ We thought we’d wait, and maybe there will be some more in­ter­ested,” Pet­ten said.

Scott Rose serves as deputy mayor of South River.

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