The Telegram (St. John's)
People want to build sheds, decks: mayor
Many unhappy calls from Witless Bay residents over stalled town council, Maureen Murphy says
The mayor of Witless Bay says she has received a number of calls from unhappy residents of the Southern Shore town who are awaiting decisions on permits and other items that cannot proceed due to the town council being unable to meet because of a lack of quorum.
Maureen Murphy says the last public meeting of council where business was dealt with was in May — the minutes of which do not appear on the town’s website because there hasn’t been a meeting since to be able to adopt those minutes.
“It is the time of the year when people want to get sheds and decks built, and some residents work away and only have a short span of time to get permits to complete the work,” Murphy said.
“As I said earlier, we have a quorum and that is suffice to take care of all town business if all councillors are available.”
The problem is that not all councillors have shown up to meetings, and the meetings were cancelled. The town is down to four councillors from seven, and all four need to attend a meeting to have quorum.
Murphy said she has tried a number of times to get the town business moving, and has even written to the Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment to get permission to proceed with town business with just three councillors.
“I did write the Department of Municipal Affairs back in June requesting that the town be given the authority to operate with a quorum of three until the municipal general election in September,” Murphy said. “Council did not receive authority to do so.”
The Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment has stated that as part of their duties, town councillors are required to attend council meetings to ensure town business can continue, and with four councillors remaining in Witless Bay, that’s a sufficient number to constitute quorum.
According to the province’s Municipalities Act, however, if a councillor does not attend regular public meetings of council for three consecutive months, that councillor’s seat will be vacated.
The department has stated it is reviewing the situation in Witless Bay. Current members of the town council, in addition to Murphy, are Kevin Smart, Vince Swain and Ralph Carey.
Following a byelection in October 2016 to fill two vacant seats, the town had a full slate of seven councillors. On April 28 of this year, then-deputy mayor Dena Wiseman resigned, and on May 4 then-mayor Sebastien Despres resigned.
Murphy and Fraser Paul — both of whom were elected in the October 2016 byelection — became mayor and deputy mayor, respectively.
Paul resigned from council on July 12 following a Newfoundland Supreme Court ruling that found he faked his residency in Witless Bay for at least 30 days prior to the nomination deadline for the October byelection.