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'I am not a bully' - Tourism Bell Island chairman Henry Crane

Tourism Bell Island chairman Henry Crane stands in front of the entrance to the collar of Mine No. 4 on Bell Island where the Theatre of the Mine plays take place. Crane says a mediator’s report in a dispute surrounding Radio Bell Island and its radio bingo unfairly slammed him and Tourism Bell Island.
Tourism Bell Island chairman Henry Crane stands in front of the entrance to the collar of Mine No. 4 on Bell Island where the Theatre of the Mine plays take place. Crane says a mediator’s report in a dispute surrounding Radio Bell Island and its radio bingo unfairly slammed him and Tourism Bell Island.

WABANA, N.L. — Tourism Bell Island chairman Henry Crane took a licking in a recent mediator’s report that looked into an ongoing dispute over Radio Bell Island and the control of its radio bingo.

Since it conception in 2011, Radio Bell Island has been popular with local residents.

In the report Crane is described as a bully who used his influences to orchestrate a takeover of the Radio Bell Island board and gain control of how radio bingo proceeds were doled out.

Crane, however, refutes the report saying it went too far.

Instead of trying to bring warring parties together, he said, it went way beyond what a mediation is supposed to try to do.

“I thought the report was going to be between Radio Bell Island and Tourism Bell Island, and who this other group was — it ended up being two individuals, but that’s fine — but once the mediator comes in and says nothing can be done here the game is over, but it didn’t go that way.

“The whole process behind mediation, whether it is two or three groups or 10 groups, is to find the common interest and plant the seed and you build on that. If you can’t find the common interest then the mediation is done.

“It was a heavy-duty personal attack on me. I was called a bully, I’m arrogant, and I’m everything you’d never want to be like. But I’m not a bully, and I’ve never been a bully.”

The Telegram obtained a heavily redacted copy of the report which was written by retired provincial court Judge Robert T. Smith.

Smith was appointed by the Town of Wabana on Bell Island last fall to attempt to mediate the conflict that the report says involved such things as attempted character defamation, a power struggle at the board level, and allegations of mismanagement of money.

Smith clearly points out at the beginning of the report that it is “Another Failed Mediation.”

Some of the concerns raised during the mediation process included allegations of Tourism Bell Island itself as to how some federal-provincial government grants were being used.

Crane said the allegations are baseless and unfair given all that Tourism Bell Island has accomplished and all the dedicated volunteer work he has personally put into his community over the years.

He said the whole dispute centres around clashing personalities.

“A year or more ago, things started to go a bit sour. It wasn’t about Radio Bell Island bingo as much as it was personalities started to clash,” Crane said. “And I won’t say I’m not headstrong, cause I am. A few things happened that didn’t involve radio, but spilled over to radio.”

Related stories:

Waves of discontent over Bell Island Radio bingo

Radio Bell Island back on the air


Bell Island Radio was established in 2011 with its station set up in St. Michael’s Regional High School.. The station began broadcasting as a permanent radio station on Jan. 28, 2013.

The radio bingo was organized later to financially support the station through a three-way partnership involving Radio Bell Island, the high school, and Tourism Bell Island.

“The problems seem to begin with the development of a successful radio bingo,” Smith wrote in his report. “Bingo means money and money is a source of power.”

The report notes an alleged power struggle ensued on the Radio Bell Island board of directors that resulted in members being elected who supported a more-controlling part for Tourism Bell Island.

St. Michael’s High School on Bell Island houses Radio Bell Island. The board of directors of Radio Bell Island wants to move the station from the school to the protest of others in the community.

Kelly Russell, a popular Newfoundland musician, was one of the driving forces to get the station off the ground. He also became the first paid station manager but quit due to the conflict.

Russell said the tourism-controlled board moved to take over the one-third share of the bingo money that the school was receiving. The board also voted to remove the radio station from the school entirely and to relocate it to the town complex.

Crane said he had no control over who was voted onto the board. He said there were 14 people vying to fill the five available seats.

“People had gone out and rallied for votes. The people who got elected, I knew them all. I knew all 14, actually,” he said. “And then it was said I orchestrated it. Man, I’m not that powerful.”

Crane said that right from the start of the radio station, it was the intention to move it out of the school.

Russell pointed out in a previous story in The Telegram that one of the most disturbing things to him and his family was the personal attack against his wife Tonya Kearley, principal of St. Michael’s Regional High School, and who was also a former member of the board of Radio Bell Island.

Russell said his wife was voted off the board and had a number of letters of complaint sent to the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District, and to provincial government departments and officials that suggested she was unfit for her job. Included with the letters was a photo of his wife when she was out socializing with friends at a local bar.

In the report Smith noted the school district and government found no inappropriate conduct by Kearley and even stated that, “given the nature and number of complaints brought forward towards you, it appears to be an organized attack on your professional reputation.”

Crane admits he made a complaint to the Department of Education.

“I saw the picture on Facebook,” Crane said. “Some of the stuff that has gone on at the school that I’ve witnessed and seen, I took great offence to it as a retired instructor. I know if I was a parent I’d be taking a lot more offence to it. But when I saw that picture I was appalled. I sent it off to the Minister of Education and I said ‘this is wrong, absolutely wrong.’ You are a principal, you are held to a higher standard. The kids are looking at this on Facebook.

“I had no part of any other people, any parents, making complaints.”

In the report, Smith lists a number of things that shows the “remarkable” work done by Tourism Bell Island and its leadership to promote Bell Island and tourism efforts.

Everything from walking trails, plays, dinner theatres, festivals, mine tours, restoration of military guns and a lookout, to the administration of an adult basic education program and the lighthouse cafe and interpretation centre.

Crane, himself, has also researched and written plays and has volunteered with groups such as minor hockey coach in the past.

Also in Smith’s report, it states that “generally, if you do not follow the strategy that is outlined by (redacted) there is a possibility that you will incur (redacted) wrath.”

It also states that (redacted) has a motto: “Lead, follow or get out of the way.”

Crane says he’s the “redacted” part because that is his motto.

“I’m a person who goes by mottos and sayings. I quoted (those who reportedly made that statement in the past such as) Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca, General George S. Patton and, I believe, former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

“I said this is the way we have to be guys, if you come to the tourism board and you have an idea, take leadership of it, you own it. If you don’t want to be leader of it follow it. And if you don’t want to help us out with it, then don’t put roadblocks in our way either. That’s what it means. It’s a positive thing. And people tried to make a negative thing out of it, but I said that’s my motto.”

Crane said the other phrase attributed to him in the report, “Heads will roll, bodies will fly,” is false.

“I don’t know where that came from, it’s not a phrase I would ever have used in my life,” Crane said. “And that was hurtful.

“I’ve never been on a board when I got up and finger-pointed or jumped at somebody, and I never will do it. That’s not the way I act.

“My involvement and tourism’s involvement is to move Bell Island ahead. I’m not interested in a fight, our board is not interested in a fight because it takes energy from a project and it makes it harder to attract volunteers. As I said, my record in this community stands.”

Crane said all the “flak” he’s gotten and all the negative things in the report and on social media about him will not deter him from volunteering in his community.

“Don’t poke the bear. I will never give up. It only makes me dig in deeper,” he said. “In fact, I’m going to run for (town) council. I see this island improve every single day. The residents have a new sense of belonging and we have a new boat here now and it’s going to kick tourism and entrepreneurship up a notch. If you walk away, it returns to the way it was.”

glen.whiffen@thetelegram.com

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