The Department of Municipal Affairs has been asked to investigate Grand Falls-Windsor council’s handling of a private vote to continue with the Salmon Festival despite advice to pull the plug.
Information uncovered via a freedom of information request earlier this month revealed that council voted 4-3 in favour of continuing with the 2015 Exploits Valley Salmon Festival in May, even though the promoter and senior management suggested pulling the plug and cutting losses.
In a subsequent interview with The Advertiser, festival committee chairman Coun. Darren Finn said there was a decision made to keep the minutes of the committee of the whole meeting where that vote took place from being tabled at the next public council meeting.
Grand Falls-Windsor resident Dave Barker has written to the Department of Municipal Affairs regional manager to ask for an investigation of the way council handled the matter, specifically in relation to the decision to not allow the minutes to be made public.
“I am asking Municipal Affairs NL to launch an investigation into the Grand Falls-Windsor town council for violating S. 213 of the Municipality Act 1999,” Barker wrote in a letter to the department’s regional manager, Edison Goodyear.
Barker provided The Advertiser with a copy of the letter.
“At a committee meeting held in May 2015, the committee voted four to three in favour of holding the 2015 Salmon Festival. According to Part 3 of S. 213 of the act, in order for the vote to be valid, it had to be done at a public meeting (regular council meeting) … which it wasn’t,” the letter continued. “I want Municipal Affairs to look into this matter.”
Goodyear was away from his office and could not be reached for comment.
Department communications personnel said they could not comment on Barker’s request.
However, in an emailed statement to The Advertiser, communications director Kevin Guest wrote, “… the Municipalities Act, 1999, states that decisions of councillors made at a privileged meeting are not valid until they have been ratified by a vote of the councillors at a public meeting. However, the legislation is silent on when that vote at a public meeting has to be held.
“In saying that, a particular council may have their own rules and regulations which indicate when the vote has to be held,” the email added.
Mayor Barry Manuel said he is uncertain whether the town had any such rule or regulation, but he defended the actions of council in not allowing the result to go public.
“There was no change of direction,” Manuel said, mirroring the statements made by Finn. “We were still having a concert and if we did make it public, it would have become an issue and been detrimental to the opportunity.
“It’s like any business arrangement, there are sometimes certain details that aren’t made public because it could jeopardize the deal. The publicity would have been negative and in council decisions the majority rules, so we were moving forward. I’m not arguing the technicalities of it, but the concert was still going ahead.”