CARBONEAR, NL —The Town of Carbonear is shedding further light on the timeline leading up to Tuesday's vote to declare the mayor's seat vacant.
Frank Butt announced via Facebook last night he will appeal council's unanimous decision, which was made on grounds the former mayor was in a conflict of interest when he introduced a motion to tear down a vacant commercial building on Water Street located next to a gas station he owns. That motion, made at a council meeting in 2014 when he was deputy mayor, was defeated, though the building was later torn down following a change of ownership.
Under the Municipalities Act, councillors cannot vote or speak on matters where they have a monetary interest, directly or indirectly.
In cases where this occurs, council is obligated to order the removal of that member.
In a news release issued early Wednesday afternoon, the town noted all councillors receive training from the provincial government to highlight conflict of interest and how it pertains to legislation.
Two weeks prior to the Sept. 26, 2017 municipal election, the town received a copy of an anonymous letter highlighting the conflict of interest allegation, which was also sent to the minister of Municipal Affairs.
The previous council did request a legal opinion on the letter's merits, but it was not received until a week after the election, which saw Butt elected to the mayor's seat.
Municipal Affairs advised council on procedures to follow regarding the conflict of interest allegation outlined in the letter, and an investigation determined there was a potential monetary gain for his business in tearing down the Water Street building.
"It has been referenced that the letter received is unsigned; however, the fact remains that (former mayor) Frank Butt made and voted on the motion," the town said in the release.
"The council did follow up on the letter being unsigned, the time frame from when this occurred and when the letter was received; however, we were informed by legal counsel that the legislation does not provide for any time limits or degrees of monetary interest, therefore, that could not be considered in investigating and making a decision on the allegation."
The release said Butt was aware of the legal opinion of the town lawyer and took part in two hearings, accompanied by his own lawyer, Nov. 22 and Dec. 6.
"We feel this is an unfortunate situation," the town wrote. "Frank has the option to appeal council's decision to an Appeals Court and we respect his right to do so and wish him all the best."