Portugal Cove-St. Philip's Coun. Doug Neary
By Josh Pennell
It was a confrontational first council meeting back for Coun. Doug Neary on Tuesday night, even though he left the room during the most argumentative parts due to conflict of interest.
Several people in the public gallery applauded as Neary took his seat. The Portugal Cove-
St. Philip’s councillor was kicked off council by some of his colleagues due to an alleged conflict of interest in 2011. He was reinstated recently by the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador, which overruled the decision of a trial division judge who sided with council’s initial decision.
The meeting proceeded without incident until Coun. Joe Duggan asked Neary to leave the council chambers following the report of the finance committee. Duggan said he had some questions he felt would be a conflict if Neary remained.
When Neary left, Duggan asked, “How much did the Neary case cost?”
Coun. Moses Tucker — chairman of the finance and administration committee said that it had cost more than $48,000. When he asked how much council owed Neary, who’s legal fees council also has to pay and to whomit owes back pay for his time kicked off council, he was told by Coun. Moses Tucker the only indication councillors had so far of how much that would cost was from what Neary had told the newspaper recently. (In a recent article in The Telegram on his reinstatement, Neary said they owed him about $30,000 for his legal fees alone).
Duggan questioned council about several other court cases it’s involved in, asking how much money council owed. In one, involving a local church, he was told $3,845. For a other cases still before the courts, he was told that council didn’t know.
“So in legal costs, I see about $100,000 here easy,” Duggan said.
AsDuggan continued to speak about legal fees the town owed, Mayor Bill Fagan responded.
“I’ve been against legal costs for quite some time. In fact I just had a fairly major blowup with some legal consultants about how much everything is costing us and the fact that we are losing things,” he said.
Before Neary was brought back into the council chambers, the issue of a letter was also brought up to council, but the details of the letter were never made clear.
“Is there some kind of a letter or something that I got hold of half an hour before I got here? Aren’t you going to table that?” Duggan asked Tucker.
Fagan interrupted to say council should be made aware of what’s going to be tabled beforehand. Duggan, obviously upset the letter wasn’t going to be part of council’s proceedings, said it had been in circulation since Thursday, but he had been given it just prior to the meeting.
The one thing that was disclosed about the letter was that it was protected by solicitor-client privilege and the mayor said such a letter could not be tabled.
Duggan disagreed, bringing up some contents of what he thought were in the letter anyway..
“It’s public funds,” Duggan said.
“It’s not public funds. It’s not public funds. It has nothing to do with public funds. At least what I’m thinking about,” the mayor responded.
Duggan was so adamant about the letter and its contents being brought forward at the council meeting for the public to see that he suggested council ask the public floor if it should be tabled.
Following the meeting, Duggan would only tell The Telegram that it was a piece of correspondence that he had received a half hour before the start of council.
Neary was allowed back in following the discussion of the letter and the meeting proceeded without further incident. Following the council meeting, however, a town hall meeting took place during which several people questioned the mayor about the money owed in legal fees.
There was also some confrontation between the mayor and Neary over the exact reason why the Supreme Court had reinstated him to council — Neary argued there had never been a conflict of interest and the mayor suggested it was due to procedural error when Neary was being ousted.
Afterwards, Neary said he had sat on several committee meetings already since his return to council and was happy to be back.
“I enjoyed all that just as though I hadn’t been away.”