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Carbonear mayor Frank Butt’s seat declared vacant

Newly elected mayor Frank Butt took his place in the mayor’s chair for the first time during the swearing in of the new council, held on Oct. 2.
Newly elected mayor Frank Butt took his place in the mayor’s chair for the first time during the swearing in of the new council, held on Oct. 2. - Chris Lewis

Conflict of interest playing into council’s decision

CARBONEAR, NL - Frank Butt’s seat as mayor of Carbonear has been declared vacant as of Tuesday night.

A regular council meeting held on Tuesday night, Dec. 12 took a surprising turn when Frank Butt excused himself from the room prior to a discussion that would bring a premature end to his career as mayor of Carbonear.

When Deputy Mayor Chris O’Grady took Butt’s place on the mayor’s chair, council began brief discussion on a letter from a resident that was brought to the attention of the newly elected council only days into their election.

In the letter, it is stated that Butt, who owns Butt’s Esso located just off Water Street, made a motion to demolish a building known as the Surprise Bag. The Surprise Bag was, at the time, dilapidated, and Butt’s motion included a search for asbestos and pests, as well as the destruction of the property. Ultimately, Butt’s motion failed, however, a conclusion was made that Butt was in conflict of interest, and should have declared so.

As a result, Butt’s seat on council is now vacant, with the future still up in the air.

The land where the Surprise Bag once stood has since been sold by the town, and now serves as a parking space for The Stone Jug.

Members of council spoke with The Compass following Tuesday night’s meeting about the decision for Butt’s seat’s vacancy.

“We actually saw the letter the same day we got our orientation,” said O’Grady. “So, we’ve been struggling with it for a while, going back and forth with our lawyer, and our lawyer indicated to us that there would appear to be a conflict. The legislation says that we’re obliged to declare the seat vacant.”

Butt has 21 days to file an appeal to the decision. If no appeal is made, or if Butt is still found to be in conflict of interest following an appeal, the town of Carbonear will hold a byelection. Until then, O’Grady will handle any mayoral duties for the community.

“It was certainly a difficult decision - Frank is a colleague, and has been one to some members of council for many years,” O’Grady said of the decision. “It’s unfortunate, but we had no choice but to act.”

The Compass attempted to contact Butt following the meeting, but did not receive a response. Butt did however post to Facebook noting that a press release would be coming on Wednesday, Dec. 13. Butt later posted to social media to announce that he would be appealing council's decision, but could not speak further on the matter.

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