South River council bans recording devices
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.
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.