Ten­sions high in Clarke’s Beach

High pro­file land dis­putes, ac­cu­sa­tions of con­flict and more on coun­cil’s agenda

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY TERRY ROBERTS THE COM­PASS

The po­lit­i­cal heat is again on the rise in the Town of Clarke’s Beach, with high pro­file land dis­putes, ac­cu­sa­tions of con­flict of in­ter­est and open dis­cord at coun- cil meet­ings seem­ingly dom­i­nat­ing mat­ters in the Con­cep­tion Bay North town.

The twists and turns are tan­gly and thorny,and in­volves, among other things, an un­usual land dis­pute be­tween Deputy Mayor Kevin Hussey and long­time Bay Roberts med­i­cal doc­tor Robert E. Hum­ber, the fill­ing in of a lo­cal pond, an on­go­ing con­tro­versy over the op­er­a­tion of an RV park in the town, and an ac­cu­sa­tion that Hussey re­ferred to res­i­dents of Park Av­enue as “trou­ble mak­ers.”

It was also re­vealed last week that the town is seek­ing clar­i­fi­ca­tion from the provin­cial gov­ern­ment about whether Mayor Betty Moore can take part in dis­cus­sions about set­ting the weekly gas al­lowance for the mayor’s ve­hi­cle.

Hussey has sug­gested Moore was in a con­flict of in­ter­est dur­ing fi­nance com­mit­tee bud­get meet­ings late last year.

Boy­cotting meet­ing

The ten­sion was pal­pa­ble at a June 25 pub­lic meet­ing, which saw one coun­cil­lor, Roland An­drews, leave be­fore the meet­ing was called to or­der.

An­drews said out­side the mu­nic­i­pal build­ing he was “boy­cotting” the meet­ing, but re­fused to elab­o­rate when ques­tioned by The Com­pass. He did not re­spond to a sub­se­quent re­quest for an in­ter­view.

Coun­cil also re­fused a re­quest by Hum­ber to ad­dress the group, say­ing he did not fol­low the es­tab­lished pro­to­col. The re­la­tion­ship be­tween Moore and Hussey also boiled over as the meet­ing was wrap­ping up, with Hussey sug­gest­ing that Moore was be­hind most of the tur­moil and di­vi­sion in the town.

It’s the lat­est in an on­go­ing cy­cle of ran­cour, de­spite the fact the town is ar­guably in its best fi­nan­cial shape in re­cent mem­ory, and is show­ing steady growth.

The ac­ri­mony be­tween Moore and Hussey ig­nited fol­low­ing de­bate over a let­ter from Mil­dred Snow, a res­i­dent of Park Av­enue. In her let­ter, Snow re­quested that Hussey apol­o­gize dur­ing the pub­lic meet­ing for al­legedly say­ing that “peo­ple on Park Av­enue are nothing but trou­ble mark­ers.”

Snow, an out­spo­ken critic of the RV park, al­leges that Hussey made the com­ment dur­ing a tele­phone con­ver­sa­tion with her.

Hussey ve­he­mently de­nied mak­ing the com­ment, and re­fused to apol­o­gize, prompt­ing Snow, who was in the pub­lic gallery, to state: “Now you know what you have for a deputy mayor.”

Hussey and Moore then en­gaged in an an­gry ex­change af­ter the meet­ing was ad­journed, with Hussey leav­ing through a side en­trance.

Mov­ing earth

The lat­est fric­tion was sparked fol­low­ing a de­ci­sion last month by coun­cil to fill in a por­tion of The Glam, a ten­nis court-sized pond ad­ja­cent to the pub­lic works build­ing. Some res­i­dents have voiced op­po­si­tion to the move, say­ing it could result in flood­ing for nearby homes.

Coun­cil agreed to hire a lo­cal con­tract­ing firm to de­liver fill to the site, at a cost of about $6,500. No ten­ders were called be­cause the amount fell be­low the $10,000 bench­marked spelled out in the Pub­lic Ten­der­ing Act, said Coun. Garry Ben­dell, who chairs the pub­lic works com­mit­tee. The source of the fill is what is now in dis­pute. Hussey, who lives a short dis­tance away on Wil­sonville Av­enue, told coun­cil he had plenty of fill on his land, and of­fered ac­cess to it at no cost to the town. Coun­cil ac­cepted the idea, with Hussey in­sist­ing he did not take part in any vot­ing.

The heavy equip­ment moved in on June 20, and by the next day had hauled away many dozens of tan­dem truck loads.

It all came to a halt on June 21 when an an­gry Hum­ber came to the site, al­leg­ing he owned all the fill, and some of the land on which the earth was be­ing taken. Hum­ber called the po­lice and pro­duced doc­u­ments he said proved his own­er­ship.

“In hind­sight, yes I would have called him.

But I as­sumed he wasn’t com­ing back.”

The in­ci­dent has touched off a tense sit­u­a­tion, with both Hum­ber and Hussey threat­en­ing le­gal ac­tion and of­fer­ing dif­fer­ing ver­sions of the sit­u­a­tion, and other town lead­ers seem­ingly caught in the mid­dle. Coun. Ben­dell ex­pressed con­cern last week that the town was “mis­led” by Hussey.

“We would not have taken one rock out of it” if there was any ques­tion about own­er­ship, Ben­dell told The Com­pass.

Sale of land

What is cer­tain is that Hum­ber paid Hussey more than $8,000 for a piece of land in June 2011. But what’s un­clear is the ex­act bound­aries, since no ef­fort was ever made to of­fi­cially de­lin­eate the new bound­ary, and the prop­erty has not yet been reg­is­tered.

How­ever, Hum­ber pro­duced a “bill of sale” last week he said proves he owned all the fill, on both his and Hussey’s land. The doc­u­ment was signed by Hum­ber, Kevin and Jan­ice Hussey, and a jus­tice of the peace, Cyril An­thony.

It reads as fol­lows: “This is to cer­tify that we, Kevin and Jan­ice Hussey, sell to Dr. Robert E. Hum­ber, a piece of prop­erty from the back peg of Kevin’s prop­erty, straight to the rail­way track. Kevin and Jan­ice will own the front piece and Dr. Hum­ber will own the rear piece be­hind Kevin’s for the sum of $8,126. All fill con­tained on both pieces of prop­erty will be the prop­erty of Dr. Hum­ber.”

Hussey ac­knowl­edged the doc­u­ment was au­then­tic, but de­fended his de­ci­sion to al­low the town to re­move the fill.

He said Hum­ber re­moved only the top­soil shortly af­ter the deal was reached, but left his land in a state of dis­re­pair for a full year. Hussey said “100 per cent of the fill” was taken from his land.

“In hind­sight, yes I would have called him. But I as­sumed he wasn’t com­ing back,” Hussey said, adding he was con­cerned a young per­son on an all-ter­rain ve­hi­cle would be in­jured, leav­ing him li­able.

When asked if he felt he has placed the town at risk of le­gal ac­tion, Hussey stated: “It has nothing to do with the town. I gave the fill to Dr. Hum­ber. He had over a year to do it. I never opened a gravel pit for him to op­er­ate on my prop­erty. I should have put a time limit there.

“Un­for­tu­nately for me, wher­ever the chips fall, I’m the one who is 100 per cent re­spon­si­ble; not the Town of Clarke’s Beach.”

Hussey said he re­grets the sit­u­a­tion, say­ing, “What I’ve been through over the last few days over this fool­ish­ness is un­nec­es­sary. If I had my time back … I would have not sold (the land to him).”

Plans for a house

Mean­while, Hum­ber was ex­press­ing anger and frus­tra­tion last week, and as­sert­ing that Hussey should be “off the coun­cil.”

He ex­pressed re­gret that he was un­able to con­clude all the de­tails of the land deal with Hussey, but said it doesn’t hide the fact he owned all the fill.

“He in­formed the coun­cil that he owned it. He mis­led his fel­low coun­cil­lors and en­cour­aged them to ex­pe­di­tiously en­gage a con­trac­tor …,” Hum­ber said. “I think there are ma­jor po­lit­i­cal im­pli­ca­tions here.”

Hum­ber said the town bears some re­spon­si­bil­ity, since it OKed the work. He also crit­i­cized the con­tract­ing com­pany for con­tin­u­ing to re­move the fill, even af­ter he raised ob­jec­tions.

Hum­ber had plans to build a house on the site, which over­looks Con­cep­tion Bay and North River. He said those plans are now on hold.

“I don’t even know what to think right now,” Hum­ber stated.

Feud with mayor

Mayor Betty Moore, mean­while, de­fended her record of ser­vice to the town.

“I feel I’ve been do­ing the best that I can. Our town is mov­ing for­ward. We’re more fi­nan­cially sta­ble than ever, and we’ve had lots of im­prove­ments over the years. It seems to be the deputy mayor has his back up against me, but I’m not con­cerned with that one bit.”

Moore has op­posed ef­forts to fill in The Glam. As for the land dis­pute be­tween Hussey and Hum­ber, she op­posed coun­cil’s de­ci­sion to pro­hibit Hum­ber’s re­quest to speak at last week’s meet­ing.

edi­tor@cb­n­com­pass.ca

See page A4 for a re­lated editorial

Pho­tos by Terry Roberts/the Com­pass

Robert Hum­ber is ac­cus­ing Kevin Hussey, the deputy mayor of Clarke’s Beach, of giv­ing away fill that legally be­longed to him.

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