CARBONEAR, NL — Frank Butt is prepared to challenge Carbonear council's decision to remove him from the mayor's chair.
At a regular council meeting held on Tuesday night, Dec. 12, Butt’s position was declared vacant. This decision came in response to a motion made by Butt in May of 2014, when Butt sat as deputy mayor for the community.
The motion in question was for the demolition of a dilapidated property on 234 Water Street. Butt’s motion at the time failed, but it was still found that, because he is the owner of Butt’s Esso, located on 240 Water Street, he was in monetary conflict of interest. This was highlighted in an anonymous letter sent to council from a resident of Carbonear, and brought to the attention of the newly elected council members days after they were elected in September of 2017.
According to a document provided to The Compass following Tuesday night’s meeting, the letter in question was sent to Eddie Joyce, Minister of Municipal Affairs. The letter indicates that with the demolition of the building in question, known then as the Surprise Bag, Butt’s property on 240 Water Street would increase in property value. From there, it was recommended that council receive legal advice, and the letter was sent to the town’s lawyer, William Finn Law Office.
Finn ultimately came to the conclusion that Butt was in fact in conflict of interest in the matter, and advised council that, under the Act, they were obligated to declare Butt’s seat vacant. Butt was included in this discussion, according to the document, and was provided with copies of Finn’s letters. Butt, alongside a legal representative, also attended meetings with council on Nov. 22 and Dec. 6 with the purpose of determining whether or not Butt was in contravention of the Act.
After Tuesday night’s meeting, Butt took to social media to express his displeasure with council’s decision, adding later that he would be appealing the decision – a move he was given 21 days to carry out.
“On May 5, 2014 (over 3.5 years ago), a motion was made to demolish the former Easy Save building on Water Street. According to the anonymous letter, she or he felt that I was in conflict of interest for discussing and voting on this issue,” Butt wrote on Facebook. “As a result of council’s decision to side in favour of the anonymous author, council has decided to vacate my seat as Mayor.”
Butt also explained in his post that, under normal circumstances, the town does not entertain anonymous letters.
According to the minutes for the regular council meeting held on May 5, 2014, Butt was not present. However, the following meeting, held on May 20, 2014, Butt was in fact present and, according to the minutes for that meeting, resolved that the town will commence immediate demolition of the property on 234 Water Street, and to contact a hazardous waste company to assess the condition of the building with respect to the presence of asbestos.
Since Butt’s seat has been declared vacant, his social media posts have garnered significant attention, with plenty of support from residents of the community. A hashtag, #Imwithfrank, has begun to circulate around Facebook, and many have openly questioned the decision to vacate Butt’s seat – a decision that Acting Mayor Chris O’Grady told The Compass was a very difficult one.
Until the matter is settled, O’Grady will be handling any mayoral duties for the town of Carbonear.