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Town business needs to be addressed: mayor

If you look at the minutes of the Witless Bay town council’s public meeting on April 26 of this year, there are a number of items that were deferred to be dealt with in following meetings.

The problem is, there hasn’t been a meeting since.

The town council is down to four members from seven, but four councillors is still enough to meet quorum and continue with town business. But that’s only if they all show up, and that hasn’t been happening.

Mayor Maureen Murphy says it’s been a struggle, and town business is at a standstill.

“There are numerous applications and other important town business that needs to be addressed,” Murphy said Tuesday. “I have tried a number of times to get the town business moving, but could not get a quorum. All councillors are aware that it is their responsibility to attend meetings.”

The Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment agrees. In a statement to The Telegram, it said, “As part of their duties, town councillors are required to attend council meetings to ensure that town business can continue. In the case of the Witless Bay town council, there are sufficient councillors to constitute quorum.”

The statement did not address the question of whether the department will step in to help the town get business moving — or what options the department and the town have — given that there’s been no public town council meeting since April.

With just a little more than two months to go before provincial municipal elections are held, some in the town The Telegram spoke to believe nothing will be done prior to the election.

Items deferred in the April 26 minutes include: an application for a home-based business on Tamarack Drive; finalization of a patching and asphalt list for 2017; a proposal for town signage; Ragged Beach Crown Land Reserve; development control officer; strategic plan; paying of town debt; speed bumps; and a Crown land application involving permission to construct a right-of-way to access property.

That’s not including any applications made to the town since April.

The town council has been something of a chamber of swinging doors in the last year or so.

Current members of the town council, in addition to Murphy, are Kevin Smart, Vince Swain and Ralph Carey.

Following a byelection in October 2016 to fill two vacant seats, the town had a full slate of seven councillors. On April 28 of this year, then-deputy mayor Dena Wiseman resigned and on May 4 then-mayor Sebastien Despres resigned.

Murphy and Fraser Paul — both of whom were elected in the October byelection — became mayor and deputy mayor, respectively.

Paul resigned from council on July 12 following a Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court ruling that found he faked his residency in Witless Bay for at least 30 days prior to the nomination deadline for the October byelection.

The Department of Municipal Affairs and Environment said it is reviewing the court’s ruling along with the Department of Justice and Public Safety as it’s the “first known case where a councillor has been deemed to have not been a resident for 30 days preceding nomination, yet still was elected and carried out duties on council.”

Murphy pointed out that the Paul situation had nothing to do with council not being able to reach quorum for meetings. She said that while Paul was on council and up to the day he resigned, he was always available for meetings.

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