Harbour Grace mayor under pressure over staffing crisis

Published on February 4, 2014
Mayor Terry Barnes confirmed he was asked to resign last week by several of his councillors in a statement to The Compass this week.
Photo by Melissa Jenkins

An already tense situation in the Town of Harbour Grace further escalated last week after several members of council requested that newly elected Mayor Terry Barnes resign his post.

The Compass has learned that during a privileged meeting of council on Jan. 28, some councillors placed the blame for the town’s recent staffing crisis on the mayor, and suggested he resign.

Barnes confirmed this with The Compass this week, and released the following statement:

“During a recent meeting, some of my fellow councillors asked for my resignation. Firmly believing I have done nothing to warrant such a request, I will proudly continue my role as mayor of the town, in which I am determined to revive,” he wrote.

“I will request that this issue be put to rest once and for all as I have no further comment.”

Sources say up to four of the seven elected members — Gord Stone, Hayward Blake, Tony McCarthy and Pat Haire — had lost confidence in the mayor.

Source also say that Deputy Mayor Sonia Williams came under fire from her colleagues on a separate issue.

This follows the dramatic and sudden departure of two newly hired senior administrative employees in recent weeks.

Jennifer Janes was hired Dec. 2 as the town’s new facility’s manager, with primary responsibility for the S. W. Moores Memorial Stadium, and the proposed new arena.

Ashley Janes took over as the town’s new chief administrative officer the middle of January.

Both are sisters-in-law, and were introduced with great enthusiasm by town leaders.

However, both quit their jobs on Jan. 22, and details of their departure have been sketchy, with town officials remaining quiet, on the advice of lawyers.

Attempts to speak with Jennifer and Ashley have been unsuccessful.

The resignations have fuelled widespread speculation in the town, and social media has been alive with finger-pointing and accusations.

Amid the drama, it was also learned last week that the town had fired a longtime employee at the stadium. Sources say his termination was related to unauthorized access at the facility during the Christmas break.

The two resignations came just days after an embarrassing incident at the rink during a provincial senior hockey game on Jan. 19. The ice resurfacer malfunctioned after its propane tanks ran dry. As a result, boiling water and slush poured out, melting a section of ice.

The game was called off after just one period.

There has since been debate about whether the town should pay the travel costs for both teams — upwards of $8,000, said one source — for the make-up game, since it was the town’s responsibility to provide the facility.

Meanwhile, Barnes denies being at fault for the two resignations.

“There were, and are, no hardships between (me and the two former employees),” Barnes wrote. “Sadly, but surely, there has been numerous rumours and much speculation regarding the loss of these two individuals. Some of this negativity has been solely directed upon my shoulders.”

Town leaders are set to meet with officials from the provincial Department of Municipal Affairs Wednesday on a variety of matters.

The Compass is attempting to make contact with other members of council, and will have more as information becomes available.