Debbie Hanlon’s request for a full review of St. John’s council, including the responsibilities and salaries of councillors, wasn’t only voted down Monday evening. It was torn apart.
Hanlon took fountains of flak from her council colleagues, with Tom Hann demanding an apology for besmirching the reputations of those on council.
He said Hanlon’s idea has created a perception in the public that council is “a group of money-grabbing scoundrels who are not doing their job.”
Several councillors agreed the public outcry over Hanlon’s idea throughout the last week has left them humiliated and generated a pile of nasty comments, phones calls and emails.
Earlier in the meeting, Hanlon made the motion to debate the review at a future council meeting.
But near the end of Monday’s meeting, when each councillor gets a turn bringing up items not on the agenda, the issue started creeping into comments.
At that point, Hanlon threatened to leave, objecting to holding the debate before it was scheduled.
That prompted city clerk Neil Martin to caution councillors that debate could not proceed without a motion and a vote from council to hold it right away.
Hann then made that motion and forced Hanlon to open the debate anew.
“When I kicked the hornets nest, I must have kicked it some hard,” remarked Hanlon.
She wasn’t thrilled her debate was being forced through, but she voted with the majority of council to proceed with the debate.
“What’s wrong with putting the spotlight on what we do (as councillors),” Hanlon said. “I have nothing to hide.”
Hanlon said she constantly hears there is a disconnect between council and the people of the city.
She suggested that was just one more reason why a review is necessary.
“I believe we can be a leaner, more efficient council and I will be pushing forward on this motion,” she concluded.
Hanlon also repeated her call for a review had nothing to do with money.
But Ward 1 Coun. Danny Breen said Hanlon let the “toothpaste out of the tube” when she made the motion at last week’s meeting to “have a full review conducted of councillor’s salaries including whether the positions should be full-time or part-time.”
Breen also took offence to the suggestion people who work another job can’t be effective councillors.
“I work full-time,” he said. “But I knew getting into this what I was signing up for. It’s a full-time commitment.”
Breen said he manages to make committee meetings and take calls from constituents around his other job. He added that there are more important issues council should be debating.
Hann said the issue was “the talk of the town for all the wrong reasons.”
He said his pride of being a councillor was replaced this week with embarrassment.
Hann also said the original story in The Telegram, where Hanlon proposed council positions as full-time, was “contrived,” pointing to the fact it was Hanlon who approached the paper, inviting a reporter to spend a day with her.
Coun. Sheilagh O’Leary said the injustice of the issue was that Hanlon began a public debate without first discussing it with her colleagues around the table.
She said she has no issue with an investigation into how council could be better run. But she’s never been in favour of a salary increase and has stated so publically.
Ward 5 Coun. Wally Collins said he didn’t want to spend the estimated $50,000 on a review when there are better things to spend the money on.
Both Ward 2 Coun. Frank Galgay and Ward 3 Coun. Bruce Tilley said what Hanlon was asking for seemed to change as last week progressed.
Galgay said he’s fine with the way council operates now.
He also said it will be the voters in the 2013 municipal election who will adjudicate how well each member of council has done their respective jobs.
In the end, Hanlon’s call for a review was voted down 9 to 1. Coun. Gerry Colbert was not Monday’s meeting.