Law firm hired to review conflict of interest claim

Paul Herridge
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Marystown council seeking legal opinion on allegation against mayor

Marystown town council is bringing in St. John’s law firm Goodland O’Flaherty to review a conflict of interest allegation against Mayor Sam Synard.

Town of Marystown

Council is asking the firm for a legal opinion on whether Synard was in conflict last year during a discussion related to the installation of a sewer line to property registered in the name of a person related to the mayor.

The motion also calls for the law firm to discuss the situation during which the comments were made with council as a whole, as there is no record of the conversation.

The motion, which passed unanimously, was tabled by Coun. Leonard Pittman.

Before doing so, council voted to withdraw Pittman’s notice of motion calling on Synard to vacate the mayor’s chair for not declaring the alleged conflict, a move Pittman said was based on a recommendation from a representative of the Department of Municipal Affairs.

The department met with the town this month following a tumultuous couple of days during which Synard called the council “dysfunctional” and said the minister should consider dissolving the group.

Witch hunt

When Synard returned to the council chambers following the successful motion, he briefly addressed the allegation against him before the meeting was adjourned, emphasizing he was not in a conflict and thanking the community for the support he has received.

“We cannot keep moving forward if there is an ongoing witch hunt for the last two years. It has to stop,” Synard said.

“I agree 100 per cent and when the minutes of March the 2nd are adopted, finally, I think people in this town will be able to read and see for themselves,” Pittman responded.

The minutes in question are for a privileged meeting that took place this past winter. Pittman tabled a motion back in May asking that any reference to a private individual’s name be removed from the document before they are passed. Council is waiting for a response from the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Office.

Council's spokesperson

Tuesday night’s council meeting was quiet and respectful up until the very end, during general business, when Pittman brought up comments Synard made on an open line radio show about the meeting with government.

Pittman said the mayor suggested Municipal Affairs saw no indications of any conflicts. The department, however, was looking for evidence to support the mayor’s dysfunction claim, not conflict of interest, Pittman claimed.

That eventually turned into a debate about the mayor’s role as a spokesperson for council.

Coun. Lisa Slaney said she confirmed with a department official the mayor should have the approval of the majority of council to speak on its behalf. That has not been the case, particularly of late, she said.

“In that instant, when you can go out and say we’re dysfunctional, someone needs to say, ‘Hello sir, we need to reign you in a little bit.’ Because we’re all responsible for what comes out of your mouth when you go out in public,” Slaney said.

Not long after, Pittman introduced a motion that called for council to first be in agreement before any media interactions and also for the mayor to be replaced by another spokesperson if the rule is broken.

“You cannot muzzle the mayor,” Synard said, suggesting any motion would be unenforceable.

It was unclear what happened — the motion appeared to get lost in the mix without a seconder.

The Department of Municipal Affairs has yet to provide a response to The Southern Gazette’s request for comment on its meeting with the town.

Kevin Guest, the department’s director of communications, said Wednesday officials were in the process of preparing a letter to council as a follow-up to this month’s meeting and would respond once it’s sent.

Dysfunction claims

Deputy Mayor Al Spencer, meanwhile, spoke up during the meeting against Synard’s claims of dysfunction, saying he was taken aback.

Spencer was out of the province for the previous meeting and the immediate aftermath.

“Personally, I take great offence at being labelled as dysfunctional and that I don’t understand compliance and Robert’s Rules of Order and all of that kind of stuff,” Spencer said, later adding he had calls from work colleagues wondering what was happening.

“To have my professional reputation thrown out across the floor … I’ve got an issue with it, I got a big, big, big issue with it,” he said.

“You’ve got issues with it, I should have issues with it, Mr. Deputy Mayor,” Synard said.

Organizations: Department of Municipal Affairs, Marystown council, Privacy Office

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Recent comments

  • MTown
    September 18, 2015 - 12:57

    Sam is the best thing that has ever happened to Marystown. The town has seen growth under his leadership and he will always fight for whats best for Marystown.

  • willie
    September 18, 2015 - 12:51

    The people of marystown need to show up at the town hall and ask this council to step down. this is gone to far . Now they want to waste more money. len ,lisa ruby and al grow up .

  • Holy Smoke
    September 18, 2015 - 08:38

    Wow. Did this new Council really waste 12000 dollars on a case against young teenage girls who need our support. Its amazing that they opposed the Blue sky house in the first place. Its more amazing that they wasted 12000 dollars of our tax money doing so. How is Blue Sky house different than Grace Sparkes house. Maybe Councillor Stapleton Follett Slaney can answer that question for us taxpayers. Time for a new election.

    • The right track
      September 18, 2015 - 09:00

      You queen kidding!!! They went after blue sky as Blue sky jest opened without going through the proper procedures as they did throughout the province. Also there were many local residents in the immediate area that were not happy about blue sky even being there. Council had an obligation to follow this up. If it cost money then so be it. To me it sounds like some of these comments are almost straight from the mayor.

  • Whats Going On
    September 18, 2015 - 07:27

    what is going on here. The new Councillors need to take a deep breath and walk up the learning curve slowly. Earlier talk such as cutting the Mayors seat down by 14 inches to be at their level in the Council Chamber Room is foolish and childish ideas. Stop being Childish.

  • Mason
    September 18, 2015 - 07:00

    Appears to me Mr Spencer's fight is an attempt on keeping his reputation in the standing he "thinks" it's in right now . However , knowing this whole story , I really don't understand why this is happening . Is Marystown Counsil trying to get a reality show with all the drama ? Mr Spencer , it is your job to look after the town , you should keep your soap opera mentality to yourself and not waste tax payers money on "your" reputation . That is a conflict of interest IMO ! Sam got it right , it's a witch hunt . That's how I see it from 5000kms away .

  • Bob Walsh
    September 18, 2015 - 06:03

    What a bunch of fools. Is the same group that just last year wasted over $12,000 on lawyer fees fighting against the Bluesky home for teenage girls. They lostvthe case and flushed $12,000 of taxpayers money down the drain. Thank god that Synard is there to keep them in check if not Marystown would go bankrupt.

  • Laughable
    September 17, 2015 - 19:08

    Not dysfunctional??? Not one meeting where anything productive happens, only how can we screw Mayor Synard tonight. No interest in moving ahead with important issues. Okay we won't call you dysfunctional just petty, childish and in over your heads!

  • Fed up
    September 17, 2015 - 18:59

    Municipal Affairs already told you there is no conflict of interest so now you're going to waste more of my money paying lawyers to fund your witch hunt!! Grow up and deal with the important issues at hand. I'm surprised Sam hasn't quit and left the incompetents to run this town into the ground.

    • The right track
      September 18, 2015 - 09:06

      The dept did not say that there was no conflict of interest. Read closer. Mr. Pittman said the mayor said the dept saw no indications of a conflict of interest. So until the department comes out wi a report there is only the mayors word again. It is important to get this straightened up so the council can move forward. If a law firms does that then so be it. Before this council you hardly knew what was going on. The council was too secretive. At least now it is opened up a bit through the use of social media. To get rid of the council would be a step back not forward

    September 17, 2015 - 18:20


  • billybob
    September 17, 2015 - 17:18

    Everyone loves to blow off about things they have no clue about, try going to a few council meetings before you throw around stupid comments, and dont't blow before you know. Get educated my son!

    September 17, 2015 - 16:48

    waste of money , Sam is only one that has a clue. was len not in C I when he got the town to fight his battle ' got a road put in on his land . that is his land ,so look after it len not use towns money to get back 6 inchs of land

  • Mrs
    September 17, 2015 - 13:36

    Wasting more of taxpayers dollars! Time to wipe the whole slate clean me thinks!