George Butt's resignation overdue, potentially costly

Terry Roberts
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Based on everything we knew up to Friday, Jan. 17, the day this editorial was written, taxpayers in Carbonear can very likely expect to take part in two municipal byelections in the coming weeks.

Terry Roberts is editor of The Compass.

Based on everything we knew up to Friday, Jan. 17, the day this editorial was written, taxpayers in Carbonear can very likely expect to take part in two municipal byelections in the coming weeks.

The sad part is, only one is necessary.

The first, scheduled for Feb. 18, is to fill the mayor's post, which was vacated last fall following the resignation of Sam Slade, who was elected MHA for the district of Carbonear-Harbour Grace.

Nomination day is Jan. 22, and longtime councillor George Butt, who has served as acting mayor since Slade's departure, has stated he plans to seek the mayor's post. Butt has said he will tender his resignation following a council meeting on Jan. 20. Former deputy mayor Ches Ash has also announced his candidacy.

After the dust settles on that election, it's likely a second will be necessary to fill the seat vacated by Butt in order to challenge for the mayor's chair.

That's right. Two costly byelections.

If you think this is rather bizarre and unnecessary, you are right. Could this scenario have been avoided? Absolutely.

How? George Butt should have resigned weeks ago.

It's a big statement to make, and Butt and his legion of supporters won't like to hear it, but it's a fact.

Here's why. There are rules when it comes to publicizing an upcoming nomination day and byelection, and the town had to make some big decisions in early January in order to get the word out. Municipalities also have a 90-day window in which to hold a byelection after a council seat is vacated.

If Butt - a longtime municipal leader who previously served as mayor - truly had the best interests of the town at heart, he would have done the responsible thing at that time and graciously stepped down from council, and launched an aggressive campaign to win the mayor's chair on his own merits.

This would have allowed town officials time to make another call for nominations at the earliest possible time, and therefore permit both vacancies - the mayor's post and Butt's council seat - to be filled during one byelection.

It would have saved the town thousands of dollars - nearly $7,000, in fact - and avoided asking an already tired electorate, having participated in a municipal election and provincial byelection late last year, from once again having to head to the polls.

Instead, Butt held onto his seat to the last hour, arguing he simply should have been appointed mayor for the remainder of the four-year term, which doesn't expire until the fall of 2017. Remember that Carbonear elects its mayor on a separate ballot.

It should also be noted that there's money at stake. In Carbonear, the mayor is entitled to a maximum quarterly remuneration payment of $3,412.50, to be paid before March 31. However, this is pro-rated, based on attendance at regular public council meetings, and only if the council member attends "more than half" of the meetings.

If elected as mayor next month, Butt will be a position to attend four the six meetings scheduled for this quarter.

When asked if remuneration was a factor in his delayed resignation, Butt answered: "bullshit."

So here we are, facing what any astute political observer would only describe as an embarrassing, wasteful exercise.

It's a similar circumstance to one faced by the City of St. John's in late 2005, when then mayor Andy Wells was being considered for the top job at the offshore petroleum board. Wells never did get the job, but there was raucous debate at the time about how to avoid multiple byelections if Wells resigned.

In the end, then city manager Ron Penney - one of the finest municipal administrators in this province's history - put it back in the lap of sitting councillors with this simple statement: "I would expect that from a practical point of view, a councillor would make his or her decision well in advance of the nominating period so we could have the additional byelection at the same time."

The same theory applied in this case.

Butt's resignation is several weeks too late, and it's very likely going to result in a second byelection for the town.

That's a shame.

— Terry Roberts

Geographic location: Carbonear

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Recent comments

  • Disgusted
    January 24, 2014 - 12:34

    And people wonder why it is difficult to get good people to step forward and offer themselves for elected office!

  • Bill
    January 23, 2014 - 07:56

    Councillors get $11,000 a year, over a 4 yr period approx. 80 meeting, and Ash only attended 93% while Butt attended 82%. Good to see the interest is high, and how they have it figured out. Attend enough meeting to get the money, why is it Butt is interested? Does anyone need more proof?

  • B White
    January 22, 2014 - 09:58

    I suddenly have the urge to enter politics. All I have to do is join a couple of charity clubs, maybe volunteer changing diapers at the hospital, and get elected as Mayor. Now that's politics.... Once in the Mayors chair the focus shifts from politics to personal gain, and is now call Pension Plan. So in order achieve this goal I will have to enter at the provincial level, hopefully hang on long enough to qualify for may Pension.. Now if all goes well , with a few lucky strikes, I could run for Federal, THE HOLY GRAIL of them all.. Pension number two. In the mean time all I have to do is lie, cheat. steal, take fishing trips in remote areas on tax payers dollars , travel the world, Oh and I almost forgot, look in the mirror everyday and watch myself grow another chin....Oh well.... its a nice dream, but its not for me. So I'll step aside and give my dream to Mr. Ash

  • Paul
    January 21, 2014 - 20:50

    I voted for Sam Slade as I thought he would be good for our District. Not a word from him yet, so time will tell how he makes out. As "opinion" noted he knew during the mayors race he wanted to go for MHA. But truly who has the right to appoint a mayor 3 mths into a term. Not councillors but the residents. So for the fellow liberals don't throw stones, as George could have resigned and saved the money. And I believe that had George supported the PC's last election, like he did the two previous terms, us liberals would not be complaining. It is only municipal politics and contrary to what Jenkins and Roberts write, the decision for an election was right. Stop being the complacent regular winy, complaining self-serving Nler's we tend to be and take people for the good they are and stop being so personal and throwing insults. You are only making yourself look low a stupid low-life. Nothing to due with partisan politics but is doing what is best for our town.

  • Gerard Butt
    January 21, 2014 - 20:14

    Small town politics, and small minded editor!

  • Resident
    January 21, 2014 - 20:05

    Correct me if I am wrong but wasn't George Butt also Deputy Mayor having garnered the most votes when Mayor Claud Garland passed away in 2004. He wasn't moved up to mayor but ran in a bi-election only to lose to Sam Slade. Just goes to show that having the most votes as councillor does not guarantee you the mayor's chair.

    • Shirley
      January 22, 2014 - 11:18

      He WAS bumped up to Mayor until the next election came around which was that fall, I believe. It was not long until the election, I know that much. For people blaming Butt: There are rules and regulations to go through. Frank Butt and Bowman were in favor of moving him up, Goff, Kennedy and Noel motioned for a bi-election. If they moved him up, the first election would have been avoided and they would have only had one election for a Councillor. We JUST had an election and the numbers in the polls speak for themselves. Everyone (just about) agreed that he should have ran for Mayor this time around in the first place. George will prevail. And as for "Gomez" "Charlie" I believe you are the same person. This is just an editor trying to drum up drama and sell papers. Let it go guys. The people will speak again and on that day, you will see, your opinion is in the minority. Minority would be an understatement. Goff just scraped getting in. Brenda Trickett gave a good run for the money and was right behind him. He will not get in next time if he runs and neither will Kennedy.

  • Gomez
    January 21, 2014 - 16:22

    When asked if remuneration was a factor in his delayed resignation, Butt answered: "bullshit." It is just a question not an accusation. I would like to know Butts justification. Why did you knowingly waste the tax payer dollar? You thought he should be given the position? You didn't run for Mayor.

  • "Opinion"
    January 21, 2014 - 14:35

    Seriously... now that someone is stating the facts in a very educated "opinion" article everyone is up in arms. Mr.Roberts is simply giving you the information as it is. There didn't seem to be an issue the other week when everyone was voicing their concerns when it seemed as if "3 councillors" could have avoided a by-election, well now 1 deputy mayor could have avoided 2 by-elections. Do the math people and stop being so one sided. As for Sammy Clause, what a joke!

    • wayne
      January 24, 2014 - 08:22

      What's a joke here "opinion" is you don't have the guts to sign your name to your comments. Truth is those three councillors should resign they don't have the best interest of the town or it's people. as well Charlie" again gutless with no last name for your information mr. Slade made more when he was operating he's business so i guess your theory there is out the window. And for Tina the reason mr. Slade wasn't at Smitty's is because he made a commitment to be at the donation for the heart and stroke foundation from the annual mayor's walk.. so it's easy to sit behind your computers with your fake names and accussing people of things which are as fake as the names you use on your comments.

    • Tim Thistle
      January 24, 2014 - 11:19

      Sounds a little syndical there Wayne, as you forgot to add your last name. And no, a fisherperson did not make more than an MHA, benefits are completely different. To complicated for some to figure out. Then again minus the gas for the few days he will travel over the overpass and yes he might be down money. It appears he missed over 20% of the regular meetings of the Carbonear council, and did not sit on any committee, nor carried out any special projects. So I guess he will make more as an MHA. As for the three councillors they did what we elected them for, voted for our best interest, not only what the George supporters wanted. Unfortunately Sammy Clause jumped ship, and caused an election. Who was it that is self-serving? You silly narrow minded people.

    • Wayne Slade
      January 24, 2014 - 13:41

      First of all Tim didn't know you were taking care of the finacials aboard of our fishing enterprise to know how much we make,lol alsowho are you to dictate to someone if they should run for office or not. also you talk about missing 20 % of regular meetings well in case you don't know that politicians have several meetings and activities on at once and seeing one person can't be everywhere at once sometimes you have to miss certain meetings.And Tim Thistle seeing your so smart and know everything about everyone elses business why don't you have some guts and put your name on the ballot next time and offer yourself to the people. And once again your wrong because when your a mayor your a part of every committee. When your talking about silly minded people get your facts straight, easy to shoot your mouth off on things you don't understand . Get a Grip

    • Tim Thistle
      January 24, 2014 - 21:16

      Sorry Wayne, not interested in a urinating match. But with a few crab, bit of fish, nah can't see making $100,000 as a fisherman a reality. I am about as interested in running for a position as yourself, maybe when I move to Bristol's Hope. To easy to sit back and complain, right. Several committees may exist, but the 20% I am talking about is the public meeting, when no other comm meeting are held. Check the council min. Maybe they are a lie or someone else's fault as well. Only MHA's have meetings during public debates or impt functions, lol. Interesting times and good debates.

    • Larry
      January 25, 2014 - 03:30

      Well said, Wayne. Often times, yes, several meetings are scheduled at different times for different committees, etc And also "Opinion" You must have forgot that people WORK, right? There are other commitments such as that. That's called life. Sometimes it's impossible to attend every single thing. If you think you can do better, as Wayne said....put your name on the ballot next time. It's easy for people to talk from the outside when they don't realize what is involved on the inside. Much, much more than you realize. Much more than your narrow mind could ever handle. And no matter who you are , who is mayor and what they do..you will never please all. It's impossible. If Butt DID resign early... than his naysayers would be complaining that he bailed too soon and left the town without proper representation. If this was a couple years in, I could justify the election. But we practically just had an election a few months ago and the numbers did speak for themselves where George Butt was concerned. I saw, He was doing some campaigning today near White's Rd

    • Tim
      January 27, 2014 - 09:42

      Sorry Wayne and Larry, should have noted what I read in the Town of Carbonear council minutes, Sammy Cluase missed 20% of the pubic meeting. NO work or other comm work during that time. What is the excuse for that?

  • Charlie
    January 21, 2014 - 12:46

    PLEASE! Sammy Clause should foot the bill for extra costs incurred. He stated publicly, that he decided to run for Liberal MHA while running for the Mayor's seat. This could have all been prevented, but greed prevails. Ok, Sammy Clause you got a big fat check now, so why not donate around 7 grand to your town for a great cause, Clause??? Clause is all about giving, right?

    • Tina
      January 21, 2014 - 16:27

      Wouldn't hold your breath waiting for Sammy Claus to do something for our town or district. All those years as mayor he did nothing and now as mha he will do nothing. Didn't even show up the other day for the poll lane press conference at smittys in mount pearl....guess he got lost on Pitts memorial drive! Or maybe he was on the other side of the restaurant waiting for his omelet......

  • Charlie
    January 21, 2014 - 12:45

    PLEASE! Sammy Clause should foot the bill for extra costs incurred. He stated publicly, that he decided to run for Liberal MHA while running for the Mayor's seat. This could have all been prevented, but greed prevails. Ok, Sammy Clause you got a big fat check now, so why not donate around 7 grand to your town for a great cause, Clause??? Clause is all about giving, right?

  • Tim
    January 21, 2014 - 12:04

    The people will elect George. It is clear the residents of Carbonear don't want better. New School, long term care facility, millions in infrastructure all gone. The current mayor and deputy campaigned for Sammy Clause and now laugh about the fact we will probably get no funding for our Town. They campaigned against Carbonear. Now the same people will garner support and elect George, a man who cares little for the Town, other than the fact the remuneration keeps his pocket full. So yes as Jenkins put it, he should have been given the mayors position and saved us money.

    • L Dwyer
      January 21, 2014 - 15:43

      Wow. Please! They really don't get that much, from what I know. Mr. Butt has dedicated decades to the Town of Carbonear through Special Events, Council and the Lions Club. I don't think it's fair at all to say he's in it for the (little) money. It takes a lot of guts to put up with ignorant people like yourself, after all.

    • Tim
      January 22, 2014 - 11:26

      L Dwyer, I guess if anyone goes against your post, they are deemed ignorant. Why is your small brain is able to put a few words together, and no one else can. For your info and presented in the editorial, the mayor makes over $13,000 a year. You could read my last post but not the story. Who is the ignorant one?

  • Neighbour
    January 21, 2014 - 11:05

    I have to agree with the comments. Mr. Roberts should apologize to Mr. Butt for insinuating that he is doing it only for the money. That is a bit ridiculous. As a so called "reporter" you should look at both angles. Maybe it was Kennedy and the others who are costing the people money. If you are showing a bias here how can the people trust your other stories.

  • B White
    January 21, 2014 - 10:25

    Mister editor ... It is my opinion that you as an editor of a local newspaper, in a small town such as Carbonear, should not be bias when writing articles about local citizens. If your willing to point out that Mr. Butt is going to cost this town $7000.00 because he is planning to run for the Mayor's seat again, then you should be willing to point out that the three councilor's that voted against him could have saved the town the same amount of money by leaving Mr. Butt as Mayor and ensuring that there would be only one Bi- election. As for the salary.... are you kidding? Go ask Chess Ash why he wants to be the Mayor, is it because he got nothing better to do? or is looking for some extra vacation monies . Leave it alone Mister Editor, the people of Carbonear will speak on election day.. Sorry Mr. Ash, but there's not enough teachers in Carbonear for to win this election.

    • Gomez
      January 21, 2014 - 15:10

      Yeah.... How about we save another 7,000 and just give the empty position of Councillor to the loser with the most votes in the last election. Sound logic there. Wait.... We could also just promote the Fire Chief to Councillor. The people didn't vote for Butt for Mayor. They voted him for councillor. To the person that said it is "bizarre" 3 councillors didn't move him up. That surprises me. I would think there would be more then 3 Councillors with common sense.

  • L Dwyer
    January 21, 2014 - 08:54

    The only thing that is "bizarre" is that the 3 Councillors didn't move him up. THEY had the choice of either moving him up or calling another election. Instead of moving him up, they chose to have another election (or two). Let's get that straight. It is not Mr. Butt's fault he waited to resign. If he resigned before now, the town would have no rep for Mayor. He is acting Mayor and Frank Butt took the position for Deputy which was George's and moved up. THAT is how it should be and THAT is how it should have stayed. What's the point of a deputy mayor after all?It's clear where Mr. Roberts stands but that is not the opinion floating around town. My guess is this comment will be deleted, because the last couple articles the Compass put out, they didn't like the heat they got for it so they took the comments down. Hey Compass, if you can't take the heat -- Get out of the kitchen.

  • L Dwyer
    January 21, 2014 - 08:50

    The only thing that is "bizarre" is that the 3 Councillors didn't move him up. THEY had the choice of either moving him up or calling another election. Instead of moving him up, they chose to have another election (or two). Let's get that straight. It is not Mr. Butt's fault he waited to resign. If he resigned before now, the town would have no rep for Mayor. He is acting Mayor and Frank Butt took the position for Deputy which was George's and moved up. THAT is how it should be and THAT is how it should have stayed. What's the point of a deputy mayor after all?It's clear where Mr. Roberts stands but that is not the opinion floating around town. My guess is this comment will be deleted, because the last couple articles the Compass put out, they didn't like the heat they got for it so they took the comments down. Hey Compass, if you can't take the heat -- Get out of the kitchen.