Council meeting heats up in Portugal Cove-St. Philip's

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Josh Pennell
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Portugal Cove-St. Philip's Coun. Doug Neary

By Josh Pennell

The Telegram

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.

 

Legal fees

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.

 

The letter

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.”

 

josh.pennell@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Supreme Court

Geographic location: Portugal Cove, Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • home again
    August 25, 2013 - 16:15

    In any political forum there will always be unnecessary personal vendettas and personality frictions..... it is inevitable. but from what i see..... i remember when it was a great thing to see articles about pcsp in the paper...people would flock to margs store, kings convenience and drovers superette to name a few just to read a good news story that made us all proud..... for the last several years however, it is the opposite...court cases, legal fees, development battles and personal attacks rule the day..... we just had teh friggin lt governor and teh governor general in the community giving out awards to our young people and even our local rag didn't carr a single word about it...... it is a time for change..... and change starts at the top.... the mayor has to go and those that are like minded as he as well..... then and only then will we not operate as a headless horse...... is anyone else even running for mayor?????

  • Craig
    July 30, 2013 - 10:01

    I grew up in a rural Newfoundland community and, after living in 5 towns in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick (work transfers) during a 23 year period, I moved to St. Phillips 5 years ago. I can honestly say that I have never experienced such an unprofessional, unproductive, town council anywhere I have lived. While all of those currently serving surely cannot be bad it is ultimately the "leader" of the group that must accept the responsibility. The current mayor, based on my first hand knowledge, is unfortunately in over his head. In my opinion, the lack of leadership has been the cause of much embarrassment and expense for the town and it is possibly the reason the current feud has gotten way out of hand. The town has incredible potential but unless new leadership is found it is like a runaway freight train barreling its way to some "Duck Dynasty" backwater type reputation.

  • Tom
    July 17, 2013 - 17:57

    I attended the July16th- council meeting in PCSP. What I saw and heard would turn your stomach. I saw elected representatives act and talk like children. There are at least four people whom I know will run again need not look to me for support. We need a whole new council who are willing to do what they are elected to do and that is to represent the people in a more professional manner . What I witnessed Tuesday night was just the opposite of that. Grow up councillors!!!!

  • Fed up
    July 17, 2013 - 09:24

    The Portugal Cove Council has had trouble ever since Fagan was elected. The Tucker cult with Fagan has done nothing for this town except make lawyers rich. Developments are tearing down every tree and the roads are falling apart. What's next? Sky rocketing taxes? Oh wait, we have that too. The electon can't come fast enough.

  • Jerry
    July 17, 2013 - 07:17

    I'm beginning to see a trend within the larger municipalities in this province. Perhaps if council did things right the first time and considered the consequences of their actions, they could avoid the poor publicity and avoid spending unnecessary tax dollars. To me, this is yet another display of a town's incompetence in dealing with matters that are of the best interest of its community. Sounds like CBS has some competition!