ST. JOHN'S, NL — Evidence will be presented and arguments made during a two-day hearing this March as the former mayor of Carbonear moves forward with his appeal of council's decision last month to give him the boot.
Frank Butt was back in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador Thursday morning, once again accompanied by family and friends. The two-day hearing is scheduled for March 8-9 in St. John's.
Council voted to vacate the mayor's seat last month in response to an anonymous letter levelling a conflict of interest allegation against Butt. At a council meeting held May 20, 2014, Butt introduced and voted on a motion to immediately tear down a commercial building at 234 Water St., located a short distance from a business he owned. Butt was the town's deputy mayor at the time. The letter was received two weeks before last fall's general election.
Lawyer John Babb, representing Butt, started off Thursday by offering some words on his client's behalf. He said the former mayor understands residents' frustrations, but added Butt wants the public to remain patient, peaceful and law abiding as court proceedings unfold.
St. John's lawyer Ian Wallace, representing the town, confirmed a response to Butt's initial application has not been filed. He indicated that would likely happen next week. Wallace also told Justice James Adams the town would file three affidavits.
Babb said his client expects to receive full disclosure prior to the hearing in March, adding he has taken issue with the town's handling of relevant documents thus far. In particular, Babb indicated notes from a Nov. 22 council hearing in Carbonear he attended with Butt were subsequently destroyed. That hearing, which focused on the conflict of interest allegation, was one of two held prior to council's vote on the matter.
In his application filed with the court last month, Butt accused council of acting with bias and in an undemocratic fashion. The application said the town did not give Butt an adequate opportunity to defend himself against the allegation.
"There is no evidence that demolition of the subject building would constitute a monetary interest as defined (in the Municipalities Act) … affecting or potentially affecting (Butt's) financial position or worth," states the court application.
The building in question at 234 Water St. was subsequently torn down after changing ownership through a town auction in 2015.
Butt's removal from council has become a hot topic in the community. The most recent council meeting held Jan. 16 overflowed with attendees, forcing some residents to stand outside council chambers with the doors left open. Deputy Mayor Chris O'Grady ordered the town's municipal enforcement officer to close those doors towards the end of the meeting following multiple interruptions from the public gallery.