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Frank Butt accuses Carbonear council of bias, undemocratic conduct in court application

Lawyer Kyle Rees chats with Frank Butt prior to courtroom proceedings in St. John's Wednesday morning. Rees appeared as an agent for Butt's lawyer, John Babb.
Lawyer Kyle Rees chats with Frank Butt prior to courtroom proceedings in St. John's Wednesday morning. Rees appeared as an agent for Butt's lawyer, John Babb. - Andrew Robinson

ST. JOHN'S, NL — The former mayor of Carbonear is accusing those responsible for his removal from council last month of acting undemocratically and with perceived or actual bias.

That's according to a 31-page application Butt's lawyer, John Babb, filed in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador. The document, dated Dec. 21, 2017, outlines the case Babb is prepared to make in appealing council's resolution passed Dec. 12 to vacate his client's seat.

Butt was present in the St. John's courthouse Wednesday morning. Lawyer Kyle Rees, appearing before Justice Carl Thompson as an agent for Babb, requested a Jan. 18 court date to set deadlines for submitting documents relevant to the appeal process.

Butt declined to comment on the case when approached by media following Wednesday's proceedings. Family accompanied him in court Wednesday.

According to the application, Butt is disputing the town's handling of the anonymous letter, which was received in mail by the town Sept. 11, 2017 but not addressed to council.

The former mayor is accused of breaching conflict of interest provisions under the Municipalities Act for introducing and voting on a motion in 2014 to demolish a building located near a gas station he owns on Water Street. It's alleged there was monetary gain to be made for Butt in having the building torn down. The building at 234 Water Street was subsequently sold through a town auction in 2015 and torn down shortly thereafter.

Butt argues the town failed him procedurally by refusing to release documents he felt were necessary to adequately defend himself with the aid of a lawyer.

According to the application, the former mayor also contends the town may have relied on biased advice from its solicitor, noting the lawyer in question had a professional hand in at least six transactions for the property between 1998 and 2015.

"The (Town of Carbonear) conducted itself undemocratically, contrary to the principles of Natural Justice and without transparency, with an actual or reasonably perceived bias on its part and resulting in a denial of Natural Justice and/or his rights pursuant to the Constitution," reads the application.

The court application also accuses the town of failing to acknowledge it was "acting as a quasi-judicial tribunal" that proceeded "with deference and/or consideration to the rule of law, conduct, procedural and substantive rights" such a tribunal would entail.

The document takes the town to task on the absence of a professional opinion regarding appraised property values for the relevant properties entangled in this case. It also indicates the town failed to take into consideration the protracted nature of its dealings with the property of 234 Water Street, which had already been the subject of a demolition order for years by 2014.

"There is no evidence that demolition of the subject building would constitute a monetary interest as defined (in the Act) … affecting or potentially affecting (Butt's) financial position or worth," states the court application.

The Town of Carbonear has retained St. John's lawyer Ian Wallace to represent the municipality. The town has not filed a defence.


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