UPDATE: Fired arena employee speaks out

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Harbour Grace mayor denies he played any role in Boxing Day event

A longtime employee at the stadium in Harbour Grace who was recently fired by the town for his role in a controversial Boxing Day event at the facility is pointing a finger of blame at Mayor Terry Barnes.

S. W. Moores Memorial Arena, Harbour Grace

Barnes, meanwhile, is denying any involvement in what he referred to as an unauthorized day-long event at the arena that involved some three dozen people playing shinny hockey.

The controversy is just one element in a series of events that have cast a dark cloud of discontent over the Conception Bay North town in recent days, including calls for Barnes' resignation by fellow councillors.

The holiday party attracted some high profile hockey personalities from the region, and several of the participants are closely related to members of the Harbour Grace town council. Sources say that in addition to hockey, there was food, beer and the smoking of cigarettes inside the building.

It ended with the firing of Garfield (Garf) Mahaney, reports of property damage at the rink, involvement by the RCMP, and accusations and finger-pointing at nearly every level. Those using the rink also issued an apology to town officials, and paid for the ice rental and damages, with some estimating the total bill at roughly $1,500.

Sources say the incident was also a factor in the sudden resignation of two newly hired municipal employees: a facilities manager and a chief administrative officer. Neither have commented publicly on the reasons for their departure.

The matter has dominated social media sites in the region, attracted provincial media headlines, and has further driven a wedge between an increasingly divided town council, which was freshly elected in September.

A Christmas tradition

The party, meanwhile, is a longstanding tradition in the town, dating back some two decades, and sources say the town has rarely charged for the event.

One of the users, who spoke with The Compass on condition of anonymity, said the group was contacted by an arena official in early December to inform them that they now had to pay for the use of the arena, and that a formal booking was required.

The user said it was confirmed during this conversation that the group was agreeable to the new terms, and that they wished to use the arena.

“We thought this year we were doing it by the wishes of management, the way they wanted it done,” he said. “It was clear soon after it was certainly not the case.”

The Compass attempted to confirm this by contacting the former arena manager, but she declined comment.

Sources have said the arena was left in a mess, with pizza boxes and cigarette butts not put in the trash and beer bottles not placed back in their boxes.

The user denies leaving the stadium like that.

“We certainly don’t make any more of a mess that a normal party would have,” he said. “Beer bottles were put back in the cases. The pizza boxes, we did our best to dispose of them properly.”

A key for access

When contacted last week, Mayor Barnes told The Compass there was no formal booking for the Dec. 26 event, and said the group blatantly went ahead with the gathering.

Mahaney agreed to an interview on Friday, Feb. 7, and admitted responsibility for opening the door. However, he adamantly denies being at fault.

He said he was contacted by a member of the Boxing Day group, and asked to open the arena. Initially, Mahaney refused, saying he was not authorized, and that he no longer had a key.

A short time later, Mahaney was told by the users that they had received authorization from Mayor Barnes to use the stadium.

With that, Mahaney retrieved his son's keys to the rink, accompanied members of the user group to the stadium, and opened the doors. Mahaney's son also works at the arena.

What's more, Mahaney contends he saw Barnes at the arena during the day, and several other sources have also stated Barnes was at the rink.

Mahaney's version of events, if true, is directly counter to Barnes' version.

Barnes said Feb. 5 he took no part the event, and said the responsibility for the unauthorized event rests directly on the shoulders of the employee.

“Garf was an employee who was off on leave, who wasn’t supposed to be in the stadium, or give access to the stadium,” Barnes explained

When asked if he visited the arena that day, Barnes replied: "I was not there."

Mahaney was relieved of his employment after the incident.

Mahaney contends he was unfairly terminated because he received the go-ahead — though not directly — from Mayor Terry Barnes to let the group in.

The Compass left several messages Friday, Feb. 7 for the person who allegedly informed Mahaney that Barnes had sanctioned the use of the stadium. However, those calls were not returned.

As for Barnes, he stated: “(Garf) went and got keys and tried to blame me, saying I said it was OK. I did not say he could do it, but in this situation, it’s his word against mine.”

Sources say the union contract states an employee must first receive a verbal warning, then a written reprimand before they can be terminated. It is unknown if the employee had been disciplined previously.

Mahaney confirmed he is appealing his termination.

Internal matter

The RCMP was called when it was reported the group had gained unauthorized access to the stadium. There was also some damage done to the door to the dressing room of the Eastlink CeeBee Stars senior hockey team.

An RCMP officer confirmed Friday that a complaint was made about unauthorized access and damage, but the matter has been dropped.

“Things were to be dealt with internally,” an RCMP spokesman stated.

Barnes confirmed the police were called, but said charges would have been hard to prove.

“Breaking and entering is hard to charge anyone with when a town employee lets them in,” Barnes said.

Melissa.jenkins@tc.tc

Organizations: RCMP, The Compass, Harbour Grace town council

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  • Is this true??
    February 13, 2014 - 09:37

    Was there a council meeting in Hr. Grace last night? I heard the resignation letters were read out. How come this wasn't mentioned in the notices about the meeting. Last time certain councillors were saying the would be info and a lot of people showed up. There was nothing.. This time there was nothing mentioned and then the letters were read. Sly way to be open and transparent.

  • taxpayer
    February 12, 2014 - 15:31

    Yes Paul Burke, the provincial government has offered us $4 for every $1 we spend for a modern facility we can be proud of, a lot of towns would love to have the same opportunity. We won't get this offer again!!! IMO if we don't take advantage of this there will be a new rink built elsewhere in the bay in the next 4-5 years which will result in the closure of the SW Moores and that would be a dark day for our town.

  • Seriously?
    February 11, 2014 - 21:35

    I'm planning on moving back to the HG area after a few years away and have been following this story since it broke. After reading all the comments on this one, let me see if I have this straight.... So, just because someone played hockey "at a high level" (depending on your definition) at some point, they're entitled to free ice time that someone like myself (who loves a game of hockey too but didn't play at any level higher than the local rec league) has to pay cash for? Unfortunately, this sense of entitlement has been enjoyed by the "chosen few" and their buddies and indulged by those who are afraid to go against them for fear of retribution. For anyone to come out and support their FREE use of a town facility that endured the expense of electricity that taxpayers ultimately have been paying for for years...sad and ignorant of how the bills get paid. These are the people who have been turning the stomachs of the majority who've seen the special treatment they've received for no better reason than their bloodline. If this was the softball or soccer field...no big deal...no cost to taxpayers to go up for a game of ball. I've known Garf on and off for years and I've known him to be the type who would go out of his way for others. Should he have let this group into the stadium without first-hand approval from someone above him? Probably not. But should he be made the scapegoat? No. Write him up, put it on file and move on. Although I'm not currently a voter in HG, I was very happy to see a new council and mayor take office because I saw hope for the future of the town with the election of mature people who looked to have the best interests of the citizens at heart. However, the handling of this situation has not represented a great start to this council's mandate. This stadium situation is not the worst problem here, though. The town lost two young, promising employees for reasons that nobody yet knows but are indeed suspicious. Legal issues aside, the more that's NOT said about this situation, the worse it all looks. In the end, Marlowe Best's sentiment sums things up best. There are better things to talk about...more positive things to try and focus on in terms of improving the fate of this town. Now in the meantime, good on the Compass for keeping this story from being swept under the rug. Many people probably don't know about this free access to the stadium and I doubt this "tradition" will continue next year without money changing hands.

  • still waiting
    February 11, 2014 - 12:00

    Part 1: I'm still waiting for the mayor and council to fully grasp the events of the last month or so. The most disturbing actions and inactions of it all, came from the mayor and councilors in that order. When the mayor made some real blunders in how he chose to deal with the troubles at the stadium, he was left in a very vulnerable position. For most of the rest of the councilors it was like blood in the water, and the feeding frenzy started with the call for the mayor to resign. What infuriates me most about this is the complete lack of vision, lack of awareness and sensitivity on the part of council including the mayor as to what their real concerns should have been. The events that were told to the councilors were much more serious than a group of people breaking a door and drinking and smoking etc. But council chose to do nothing about the concerns they had been made privy to.In not doing anything they were showing that they were not willing to accept responsibility for the knowledge that they now had....not blame but responsibility. It's time for the councilors to man up and tell the truth. The truth will be revealed....but who will reveal it remains to be seen. Stay tuned.........

  • Wait a minute....
    February 11, 2014 - 10:46

    I hope people don't think this event on Boxing Day was the direct cause of the two senior town employees resigning. It was not. Councilors did nothing to deal with the situation that followed. Even when they were fully informed of a series of disturbing issues that arose from it. Face up to the responsibilities you wanted when you ran for council - its better than having the facts leaked to the media.

  • Steven O'Neill
    February 10, 2014 - 13:10

    Harbour Grace Staffing changes: Lester (resigned/retired) Garf (fired) Jennifer (resigned) Ashley (resigned) Daphne (position taken out of the budget - let go) Mrs French (on sick leave - wonder if it is stress related) Question… would this council get re-elected if a snap election was called?? Is this council capable of managing the construction and management of a new arena? I guess all Harbour Grace taxpayers are worried!!

    • Paul Burke
      February 10, 2014 - 16:47

      I guess Steve the people of Harbour Grace elected these people and time should be given as they did take over a dictatorship which operated under the previous council. Changes are hard to make and implement. Barnes is no more to blame than the rest. Remember some councillors had a son enjoy the skate/game, another few had nephews, some others had relatives. Plenty of reason to try and cover the truth. A mistake had been made and the bill was paid, the only mud being thrown about if from people jealous or just to point fingers which does nothing to solve the problem or prevent future issues. Stop throwing dirt and put the energy into helping our town and region attract what it deserves, a state of the art recreation facility that the young and old alike deserve.

  • SHERRY
    February 10, 2014 - 12:29

    I agree that Mr.Mahaney should NOT have lost his job. This man has worked with the Stadium in Hr.Grace for over 25 years. He is very well known to the community of Hr.Grace for his dedication, not just to the stadium or his employment but to the town it self . He is very well respected and very kind friendly man. He admitted to getting the keys for the Boxing Day event which had taken place for many years back. Why was this year any different. A man who was on medical leave at the time to go out of his way to accommodate this event when he didn't have to says alot about this man as a individual, and why is has the respect of the community . Goes to show who to count on when you need them. Garfield Mahaney has contributed more to Hr.Grace then Mr.Barns has ever done or will ever do. I think Graf Mahaney should be elected as major. He should be given a written apology from the town and offered his job back, just so he could have the honor to tell them all were to shove it ...

  • really? go on!
    February 10, 2014 - 11:44

    So! for over 20 years some people were permitted to use, unpaid, town facilities! It seems that this problem started years ago & went unchecked. by either the Town Council or Municipal Affairs at the provincial level. Town councils are the custodians of the people's property, all the people, thousands upon thousands, not just the 20-30 with an undeserved sense of entitlement. Pay your way every time just like everyone else, town employee's follow policy & procedure all the time, not just when it suits you. The citizens of the area should be compensated b/c they payed for the fun of others for years, maybe some free family skates. Municipal Affairs should also do a full investigation into the handling of the peoples assets/money over the past 20 years or so. Public perception is very important, sorry folks but this smacks of small town corruption.

  • ex pat
    February 10, 2014 - 10:10

    Do you remember the tennis court that was located on the east end of Harvey St.? Years ago a group of us went there for a game & we were told in no uncertain terms to leave & not come back, it wasn't for us!! Only the elite of the town could use it, which was seldom & the rest of us weren't allowed! So for over 20 years a group of select citizens were using the stadium, free of charge, but everyone else had to pay?! This problem started with previous management/council it seems & truthfully people, it smacks of corruption, not to mention a total lack of respect for some citizens while promoting an undeserved sense of entitlement for others. In the 21st century town councils are expected to rule with fairness for all & that includes managing town property which is owned by all.

  • Marlowe Best
    February 08, 2014 - 19:09

    Just everyone tell the truth get this resolved , this is starting to get to foolish and the person reporting this play by play report real news, the town of Harbour Grace and the people deserve better than this crap.

  • what now..
    February 08, 2014 - 15:32

    wondering what will happen now....they fancy word terminated the only employee(Garf Mahaney) who done anything in the stadium over a lot of bull $hit....yes that's what exactly what it is...point it was a regular event. The boys played hockey and had their usual events...damage was done and now is paid for...but not fixed because will the mayor won't owe up to his wrong...give Garf back his job ..if he accepts it...and move on. Enough of this ..Harbour Grace needs a council with a back bone not one who are going to blame their own employees every time one of them fool up...

  • what now..
    February 08, 2014 - 15:31

    wondering what will happen now....they fancy word terminated the only employee(Garf Mahaney) who done anything in the stadium over a lot of bull $hit....yes that's what exactly what it is...point it was a regular event. The boys played hockey and had their usual events...damage was done and now is paid for...but not fixed because will the mayor won't owe up to his wrong...give Garf back his job ..if he accepts it...and move on. Enough of this ..Harbour Grace needs a council with a back bone not one who are going to blame their own employees every time one of them fool up...

  • Solid Group of Fellas
    February 08, 2014 - 14:50

    We all wish we were part of a great tradition Mr. Downing, getting free ice time when ever we want. Parents give their hard earned money to put their kids in minor hockey and to have the stadium vandalized like it was its disgraceful. Their is a big difference between having a beer after a rec league game than kicking in a door, smoking, drinking and the biggest one of all is breaking and entering. So if your telling everyone else to put their names to messages start telling your friends "the boxing day", group to do so as well. Maybe its not jealousy, maybe its respect. Not just for Hr Grace, maybe its for the surrounding communities who also use the stadium. And its hard to believe that you back this group who got a long time employee fired, may have caused two highly trained woman to resigned and that vandalized public property. Try to tell me they are a solid group of fellas.

  • resident
    February 08, 2014 - 13:32

    What a lot of you are missing here is that the stadium employee doesn't report to Mayor Barnes but to the stadium manager. It was a statutory holiday and the rink was closed. the employee should have called the manager before opening the door. The manager was correct to not allow this event to occur as the stadium could be liable if there was a fire or if someone was injured with no staff on duty. Small town mentality!

  • face the facts
    February 08, 2014 - 12:24

    Been watching this story a while now and its only getting worst not better. Seems to me someone needs to owe up for their mistakes and that should be Mayor Barnes. You have players it seems claiming they've spoke to you and were told to contact Garf Mahaney and they did. The man got the keys off his son which were his to start with and let the boys in...he was on sick leave so why him and not another worker....oh wait that's right he-Garf- that is is/was the only worker that ever did anything at the stadium ..so yes a way to maybe get rid of him. Wrong...face the facts ..his not going anywhere without a fight....and he shouldn't have gotten put aside to start with. Really think we have a circus not a council...

  • Cass G
    February 08, 2014 - 10:25

    Still no answers as to why the girls quit. not a word. We all know Mayor Barnes is not coming off very good here. Can't wait to here his communications to the Janes as to why they felt they had to leave. Any ideas anyone?

  • Jerry
    February 08, 2014 - 06:28

    Don't remember any controversy like this when Don Coombs was Mayor. As you are seeing change sometimes doesn't work.. If Dan Cleary wasn't there on Dec 26th, maybe I'll check and see if my good friend Geoge Faulkner was there, I doubt it very much. GO CEEBEES GO!!!!

  • B
    February 07, 2014 - 21:55

    If the group were under the impression they had booked the ice properly why didn't they contact the manager to let them in?

  • Arch
    February 07, 2014 - 21:31

    As a tax payer of this town I am ashamed of this sham of a council. The fact that two young people who could have contributed something to this town resigned for whatever reasons, some of which I hear was improper, and for Garf Mahaney to lose his job over some miscommunication and I might add I also heard was related to the Mayor, is sad. Wonder why we always hear people say "Hr. Grace will never prosper".

  • Why??
    February 07, 2014 - 21:30

    So why did the two senior employees resign????

  • Blair downing
    February 07, 2014 - 19:29

    First if all.... If you are going to make a comment have the guts to put your name behind it ..... It's not all a bunch of rich kids...... It's a group of fellas who love the game if hockey and unlike most if you played at a high level at one time or another .......finally ..... We are all adults so yes we have beer there just any other rec league does .....don't be jealous cause you are not part if a great tradition ..... It's a solid group of fellas and as in typically fashion the council is showing it true colours along with rest of harbour grace ....

  • julie donahue
    February 07, 2014 - 18:38

    I'm sorry but I think Mayor Barnes is full of $hit. And if he were being honest about not knowing about this going on this past Boxing day, or for the past 20yrs, then not only should he NOT have been deputy mayor, but should not be mayor if he doesn't know what's going on in his town. And frankly, although I voted for this man, I'm quite ticked off at his handling of this situation. You cannot tell me you did not know this was happening, I call that statement a big pile of B.S. This is a small town and everyone knows everyone's business. The Arena employee never should have been fired, that's another big load of B.S.. He's being used a scape goat in effort for certain members of town council to save their own ass. I'm so pissed I voted for certain members of this town council only to be made to look like a fool mere months later. Enough is enough, man up, admit you knew, you were wrong in firing this employee and get this crap settled. We have far more pressing issues to deal with in Harbour Grace, so lets get to those issues, shall we?

  • john doe
    February 07, 2014 - 17:24

    Just like a typical bunch of conniving,rich,high profile hockey players,riding on dads shoulders......

  • steve
    February 07, 2014 - 16:48

    This man lost his job because he done WRONG plain and simple ! Secondly these "elitists" who were there playing hockey think they own this place never had any right to be there once they were asked to leave by the then stadium manager, and definitely no right to damage the facility. As far as the mayor goes, there are a select group of 4 councilors who I unfortunately voted for who have bigger ambitions on the mind. I think its time to grow up as one of the 4 put it on cbc the other night !

  • Nonsense
    February 07, 2014 - 16:22

    What a pile of nonsense! All this over miscommunication about ice rental and a broken lock?!? Take the rental/repair money, accept the apology for the misunderstanding and reinstate Mr. Mahaney - Learn from mistakes made and move on with municipal business.I'm sure everyone has more productive things to do. A little political savvy would go a long way here - don't use a hammer to crack an egg!

    • Sylvia J.
      February 11, 2014 - 00:11

      Your comment makes the most sense so far.

  • What a joke
    February 07, 2014 - 14:50

    First off who in this town is a high profile hockey player? Cleary is about the only hockey star from this area I doubt he was there. Charges should never be dropped if not break an enter it should be unlawful entry and break an enter to dressing room no key used. Then we have the fines for smoking in a public place let alone a recreational facility such as this was. What we have here is a bunch of rich kids thinking they can do as they wish and to affarid to come public with who they are and stand behind what you did if you claim you done nothing wrong.

  • Concerned
    February 07, 2014 - 14:25

    Well well well, this story just keeps getting better and better. All you people who are in support of Mr. Mahaney, this is your proof that what he did was wrong!!! Unfortunately it is Mr. Mahaney's word against Mayor Barnes word here. But he admits in this article that he did not have confirmation to do this from Mayor Barnes, he was told by a "tradition" Member that mayor Barnes said it was ok. Tell me why has the Tradition member not returned the calls from the compass? Tell me who would go on the word of a third Party? Tell me who would take another employees keys and do what you were told by a third party? He had no keys due to being on leave so why would he go in search of keys? Why not contact another employee and ask them to do this, or why not contact Mr. Barnes to get confirmation that what he was told was right. There should be no warning. Verbal or written. This is grounds for automatic termination. He knew this was wrong and that's why he said no to the first call, but he did it anyway. This was wrong and illegal this year as it has been wrong and illegal every other year. This so called tradition is the tradition of a bunch of Boys. Boys who think they can do what they like and they proved it by making the call back to the employee and telling him they had the go ahead. They took a chance that Mr Mahaney would do what they wanted if he heard Mayor Barnes said it was ok, and it worked. There are rules and regulations in place for a reason, these Boys think they are above the rules and regulations and proved it by doing what they did, Shame on you All!!! To Woooo, Your comment about him not cleaning up he was on leave, if he was on leave why would he come let you in? The same reason he let you in every other year, I am sure everyone can figure that one out!!!

    • Lavi
      February 07, 2014 - 19:59

      When your an employee in a small town and an event is a ongoing tradition, each year and you are on leave how are you too know that all of a sudden it is not allowed? Why did the people contact garf personally to be let in if not directed to do so. The fact garf would go out of his way while on leave to do that shows that he is dependable and goes over and above for his job and puts other first. Shame on you for jumping on him. Council should have a meeting and all parties should be present to get to the bottom of what happened. But they are too busy passing the buck! If the town wants to make an example of garf, then I think it only fair, that those involved should have charges laid against them

    • a confused citizen
      February 11, 2014 - 07:17

      Well said....just what I was thinking.

  • YES BY'
    February 07, 2014 - 14:19

    "The holiday party attracted some high profile hockey personalities from the region"... Was Danny Cleary there??? I'd like to know some of these high profile personalities??

  • Just wondering
    February 07, 2014 - 14:08

    Real Story is..... WHY IS THE DRESSING ROOM DOOR NOT FIXED????? THE Bill has been paid!!! FIX THE DOOR!!!

    • It's not over till it's over!
      February 07, 2014 - 15:31

      To Just Wondering.... I'll tell ya why the dressing room door isn't fixed... "if that's the case" Garf Mahaney has been fired remember??? He's about the only one who ever did anything in that place! BOTTOM LINE! and as for Concerned.... you may think you know it all, but the story has yet to completely unfold...

  • Wooooo
    February 07, 2014 - 13:45

    Go on Terry, you met us next to Powells and wished is a merry Xmas. Then told us it was ok to use, just to get Garf to get the young fellas keys and let us in. As for the info your getting on the mess being cleaned up, it was definitely not. It was all left and not done. I guess Garf was expected to do it, but why would he? He was on leave. Make no wonder they are asking for Terry's head in Hr. Grace, can even man up to giving the go ahead to use the facility. Not much of a leader, got to have bigger shoulders than that if you want the ganvil.

  • Gee  Tee
    Gee Tee
    February 07, 2014 - 13:40

    It looks like the historic town of Hr. Grace will soon be in the history books again - for being the location of the first successful human cloning. Yes, apparently a clone of Mayor Barnes (it had to be a clone of the mayor since he claimed he was not there) was seen at the venerable S.W. Moores Stadium on Boxing Day. This great scientific event should once again put Hr. Grace on the map and should be great for tourism this summer!

    • Facts are Important
      February 07, 2014 - 14:51

      If Barnes was there as so many of you claim...anyone got any pictures? Wheres the proof? Barnes claims he had nothing to do with this, and without proof why would the residents of HG take the word of a bunch of people who vandalized the property and broke the law by smoking in the building.

    • Facts are Important
      February 07, 2014 - 14:54

      If Barnes was there as so many of you claim...anyone got any pictures? Wheres the proof? Barnes claims he had nothing to do with this, and without proof why would the residents of HG take the word of a bunch of people who vandalized the property and broke the law by smoking in the building.

    • Facts are Important
      February 07, 2014 - 15:01

      If Barnes was there as so many of you claim...anyone got any pictures? Wheres the proof? Barnes claims he had nothing to do with this, and without proof why would the residents of HG take the word of a bunch of people who vandalized the property and broke the law by smoking in the building.

  • Wooooooo
    February 07, 2014 - 13:34

    Go on Terry by' you met us by Powells parking lot and told us to get Garf to get the key and let us in. As for the mess it wasn't cleaned up and Garf couldn't do it cause he was on leave. What a joke this is and no wonder they want Barnes to resign.