Mu­nic­i­pal may­hem in Har­bour Grace

Mayor asked to re­sign for not fol­low­ing due process, says coun­cil­lor

The Compass - - NEWS - STORY AND PHO­TOS BYMELISSA JENK­INS

We are put there by the peo­ple to make de­ci­sions, and hope­fully it will be in the best in­ter­est of the town. But not ev­ery­one will be happy with ev­ery de­ci­sion.

— So­nia Wil­liams

An out­spo­ken Har­bour Grace coun­cil­lor is not back­ing down from his re­quest for Mayor Terry Barnes to re­lin­quish the town’s top elected post.

Dur­ing a meet­ing with The Com­pass last week, Gord Stone took re­spon­si­bil­ity for ask­ing Barnes to re­sign dur­ing a priv­i­leged meet­ing Jan. 28 due to “pro­to­col” is­sues.

“It’s the lack of due process (within coun­cil) that has caused con­cerns,” he stated.

Of­fice re­place­ment

The po­si­tion of chief ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cer in the town was left va­cant Jan. 22 af­ter a newly hired em­ployee re­signed.

Stone ex­plained a let­ter was faxed to the Depart­ment of Mu­nic­i­pal Af­fairs by Barnes, re­quest­ing Coun. Kathy Tet­ford be­come the act­ing chief ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cer while a new one is re­cruited.

The re­quest, he said, came af­ter a mo­tion was passed at a pub­lic meet­ing ( Jan. 29) to have of­fice worker Sean O’Brien fill in.

Barnes and Tet­ford re­futed the date, say­ing the fax was sent a week prior to the passed mo­tion.

They ex­plained — dur­ing sep­a­rate in­ter­views Feb. 4 — the fax was not in­tended to of­fi­cially place Tet­ford in the po­si­tion, but rather to ask per­mis­sion to bring the idea to coun­cil.

Tet­ford said the plan was to take a leave of ab­sence from coun­cil, and work vol­un­tar­ily.

“The mo­tion was go­ing to be brought to coun­cil at that meet­ing,” Barnes said. “But (other coun­cil­lors) had it stopped be­fore hand.”

Barnes was re­fer­ring to coun­cil­lors Stone, Hay­ward Blake, Tony McCarthy and Pa­trick Haire. Mes­sages left by The Com­pass for Blake, McCarthy and Haire were not re­turned.

Sources say all four signed and de­liv­ered a let­ter to coun­cil re­quest­ing a priv­i­leged meet­ing for Jan. 28.

It was in that meet­ing Stone asked for Barnes’ res­ig­na­tion, but he would not con­firm if oth­ers agreed.

Back­ing Barnes

Not all coun­cil­lors agreed with Stone’s call for Barnes’ res­ig­na­tion.

Deputy Mayor So­nia Wil­liams said he did noth­ing to war­rant quit­ting and she will sup­port him.

“There are ur­gen­cies where ev­ery­one has to make de­ci­sions,” she ex­plained. “And some­times the mayor has to make those de­ci­sions in the best in­ter­ests of the town.” Tet­ford was not long to fol­low. “I sup­port Mayor Barnes 100 per cent,” she wrote in a state­ment. “Much has hap­pened, and to point a fin­ger at Mayor Barnes just to

have some­one to blame is dis­heart­en­ing.”

Stone had other rea­sons

Dur­ing the Jan. 29 meet­ing, Stone brought three mo­tions to coun­cil, all con­nected to a staffing cri­sis the town was fac­ing af­ter the res­ig­na­tions of the CAO, sta­dium man­ager, other of­fice staff and the ter­mi­na­tion of a sta­dium em­ployee.

The mo­tions were to prompt swift ac­tion with hir­ing new staff, in­clud­ing re­vis­it­ing the files of pre­vi­ously re­jected ap­pli­ca­tions for the CAO and sta­dium man­ager po­si­tions. The mo­tions passed.

The hu­man re­source com­mit­tee, con­sist­ing of Deputy Mayor So­nia Wil­liams (chair), Kathy Tet­ford and Barnes stated they were blind­sided by the mo­tions, and be­lieved they should have been brought to the com­mit­tee in­stead of a pub­lic meet­ing.

Dur­ing a priv­i­leged meet­ing im­me­di­ately fol­low­ing, Stone said four of six coun­cil­lors agreed to give at least one ap­pli­cant an in­ter­view for the CAO po­si­tion. McCarthy de­clared him­self in con­flict be­cause the ap­pli­cant was a rel­a­tive.

The meet­ing ended with coun­cil leav­ing the re­main­ing files and in­ter­view de­ci­sions with the HR com­mit­tee.

The com­mit­tee met the fol­low­ing day, and de­cided to re­ject all ap­pli­cants, in­cluded the one pre­vi­ously ap­proved for an in­ter­view.

Barnes ex­plained the town spent $2,500 on a con­sult­ing firm who re­jected the files when the po­si­tion was first posted late last year.

“The con­sul­tant had his own rea­sons for do­ing this, so why go back and go through the same process this man al­ready did for us?” he con­tin­ued.

Stone said he re­ceived the news through an email from Barnes that the orig­i­nal can­di­date he be­lieved would get an in­ter­view was re­jected be­cause it would be a, “waste of time and re­sources.”

Want­ing the same re­sult

Al­though coun­cil mem­bers ap­pear to be split, each one who spoke with The Com­pass said they would like to start act­ing like a sin­gle en­tity.

“It’s time to get back to the many se­ri­ous is­sues this town faces,” Tet­ford said. “That en­ergy and time would be bet­ter spent try­ing to solve is­sues, not in­vent­ing more.”

Barnes has ad­mit­ted it’s been dif­fi­cult com­ing to an agree­ment over is­sues on oc­ca­sion, but said he wants to en­sure the best in­ter­ests of the peo­ple have been fol­lowed.

Stone also said he would like to see that hap­pen, not­ing that is why the coun­cil is there, for the peo­ple.

Wil­liams added, “We are put there by the peo­ple to make de­ci­sions, and hope­fully it will be in the best in­ter­est of the town. But not ev­ery­one will be happy with ev­ery de­ci­sion.”

Re­gard­less of the coun­cil’s in­ten­tions, many res­i­dents have been wit­ness to the firestorm of ac­tiv­ity on so­cial me­dia about the town and its lead­ers. Some have even called the group a lost cause.

Tet­ford ad­mits that the coun­cil is not per­fect, but hopes to try harder to counter what some may in­ter­pret as a loss of con­fi­dence in the group.

“We all won’t fol­low proper pro­to­col at all meet­ings or the car­ry­ing out of busi­ness when we get caught up in the pas­sion of the is­sues and their im­por­tance to us as town lead­ers,” Tet­ford con­cluded. “But we cer­tainly have to re­spect each other and leave meet­ing de­bates at meet­ings and move back out into our town with a united front.”

Gord Stone

Kathy Tet­ford

Terry Barnes

So­nia Wil­liams

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