Charlo mayor resigns over councillors drinking alcohol

The newly-elected mayor of the Village of Charlo has resigned over a disagreement with councillors regarding the consumption of alcohol while discussing village business.

Jason Carter says liquor has no place in village business

The newly-elected mayor of the Village of Charlo has resigned over a disagreement with councillors regarding the consumption of alcohol while discussing village business.

Jason Carter claims some council members and the village administrator regularly consume alcohol at the village office after public meetings — all on the taxpayers' dime.

"It’s very upsetting to see that this kind of a practice in this day and age takes place," Carter told CBC News.

"You know, if they want to leave and go to the local pub and discuss village business, that’s on their time. I have no problem with that," he said.

Mayor Jason Carter says councillors and the village administrator drink at the village office after public meetings. (Wikipedia)

Carter, who is a non-drinker, does, however, have concerns about the impact alcohol has on council's ability to function properly and fairly.

He also disagrees with taxpayers footing the bill, although councillors claim the alcohol is left over from Christmas parties or receptions.

In addition, Carter worries about possible liability issues for the village if anyone drives home while impaired and hits a pedestrian.

Carter, 37, says he didn't want to resign, but he didn't know what else to do. He submitted a letter of resignation earlier this week, which council voted on Tuesday to accept.

Since then, he says his phone has been ringing off the hook with support. "I bet you I have more than 80 per cent of voters," he said.

The matter is expected to be discussed publicly at the next council meeting, officials have said.

Didn't want to 'rock the boat'

Carter says he noticed council's "practice" of having a couple of drinks in the mayor's office after meetings shortly after being elected in May, but did not want to "rock the boat."

After a few months, however, he'd had enough. "I went home and I said to my wife, 'This is not correct. Something has to be done here. I kinda mentioned it to them before, you know, lightly, briefly, maybe my message wasn't clear enough.'"

The following day, Carter removed all of the alcohol from the "stocked" fridge — everything from 40-ouncers, to wine and coolers — and put up a sign saying, "Please do not put any alcohol in the fridge."

Carter says some councillors accused him of being "disrespectful" to council. They argued he didn't have the authority to remove the alcohol and demanded he put it back, which he did.

Coun. Roger LeClaire acknowledges council members sometimes have a drink after public meetings, but only on special occasions.

And while village business may be discussed, no decisions would be made, he said.

LeClaire says he would have been happy to remove the alcohol from the fridge if he'd been asked, rather than told.

"What we have a problem with is following due process," he said. "We weren't elected to be dictated to. We were elected as individuals to make decisions. We have absolutely nothing against the mayor, or Mr. Carter, I should say now."

Carter says he apologized to council for removing the alcohol.

But when he saw two councillors drinking in his office after a public meeting earlier this month, he emptied the fridge again and emailed council to say he'd no longer fulfill his role as mayor until the alcohol was gone for good.

"I now realize that there is no chance of this serious problem being resolved, especially after Councillor Mercier informed me at the Nov. 29, 2012 meeting of council, that she would be putting the liquor back in the fridge in the mayor’s office," Carter states in his letter of resignation.

"I wish to inform the public that if I had been aware of past practices, I would not have entered the election for mayor of the Village of Charlo," the letter states.

"I strongly believe that alcohol has no place in the governance of a municipality, especially when members of council and staff are being paid and are on duty.

"As a result, I am unable to continue to fulfill my role as mayor. It is with great regret that I announce my resignation as mayor of the Village of Charlo, effective immediately."