Mayor Sam Synard is requesting the Department of Municipal Affairs to step in to help mend what he says is a “dysfunctional” council.
If a resolution can’t be found, he is asking that Municipal Affairs Minister Keith Hutchings dissolve the current group and call another general municipal election.
“I think it’s the best way forward,” Synard told The Southern Gazette Wednesday.
The latest flare up of council occurred Tuesday evening when Coun. Leonard Pittman put forward a notice of motion that will ask that Synard vacate the mayor’s seat for breaking conflict of interest protocol.
Pittman said Synard was advised several times during a closed-door discussion about a year ago that he was in conflict over a matter involving the installation of a sewer line to two houses on Marine Drive owned by the mayor’s brother’s estate.
The mayor disagreed he was in a conflict and took part in the conversation, Pittman said.
Synard called the conflict of interest claim a “smokescreen” Wednesday and said the process would show he did nothing wrong.
The notice of motion wasn’t the only notable exchange between Synard and council Tuesday.
During the previous meeting, council passed a motion calling on Synard to publically apologize for insults and comments he had directed towards Pittman and Coun. Lisa Slaney a few months ago in the midst of a heated debate over a since-scuttled roundabout.
The mayor offered Slaney an apology, which she accepted, but refused to apologize to Pittman. Synard qualified his refusal by saying he was still waiting for Pittman to apologize for “slanderous” comments the councillor had previously made about him.
Pittman denied he had besmirched the mayor.
“I will certainly apologize to Coun. Pittman once he apologizes to me or we apologize at the same time,” Synard said.
As the meeting wound down, Synard turned the chair over to Slaney to table a motion of his own calling for all council members to have access to information related to hiring.
Synard said he was taken aback recently to learn he needed council’s approval to review resumes of people hired by the town.
Pittman pointed out the mayor has the ability to sit in on the hiring committee if he wishes to see a résumé.
The motion was defeated by a vote of 3-2 with Pittman, Slaney and Coun. Ruby Hoskins voting against and Synard and Coun. Darlene Lafosse Blagdon voting in favour.
Saying she feels strongly there should be a transparent process for hiring, Slaney then proposed a successful motion to create a human resources committee and the development of strong policies for senior management.
During his time in municipal politics, Synard said he has seen a few councils dissolved but never expected he would have to ask for dissolution of his own.
“It’s a strange day for me in many ways,” he said Wednesday.
Synard said other mayors in the province have told him they have no issues viewing résumés.
“Here I am one of the longest serving mayors in Newfoundland not able to see someone’s résumé when they’re hired on. It’s amazing. It’s flabbergasting, right?” he said. “And it sets off all kinds of unnecessary suspicion. Why is the mayor not able to see someone’s résumé? Is there something going on here? There is nothing going on, but why leave that impression out there.”
The current tumult is not unprecedented, Synard said, suggesting there is some hope council can work through its differences with the support of Municipal Affairs.
“I know Wabana went through the same thing last year. There are a number of other communities. Heart’s Delight is going through a very similar process,” he said.
“We just need to get there and clear the air and if that support is not forthcoming, then I think the minister should dissolve council and call a new general election.”