A Pouch Cove town councillor says residents are looking for answers in the wake of a CBC News report into a land dispute between the mayor and an elderly resident.
"It was quite disturbing, actually, the possible allegations there," Coun. Roxana Furlong said.
Furlong says her phone has been ringing off the hook since the news broke earlier this week.
"They feel these allegations are absolutely crazy and unbelievable," Furlong said.
"They want us to do something. And it is our responsibility — we have a responsibility to do something and see this through."
As revealed on Tuesday by CBC News, Mayor Sarah Patten is in a dispute with an elderly relative, 81-year-old Henry Jordan.
Both Patten and Jordan have laid claim to the property behind Jordan’s home.
Patten says Jordan sold it to her in 1971, although she only registered the sale with the province last year.
Jordan is still listed as paying taxes on the land in the town’s tax assessment rolls. He can’t read, and says he either didn’t sign the handwritten bill of sale or didn’t know what he was signing more than four decades ago.
The matter is headed to Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court.
Prompted council to act
Furlong says the murky nature of the dispute has resulted in action from the council.
"You would think the normal process would be that once the land is sold the new owner would definitely begin to start paying the taxes," she said.
"That is a question."
Furlong says council will look into whether the mayor fully disclosed her land ownership upon her re-election.
Under the Municipalities Act, elected officials must compile a list of their property and other business interests.
Those documents were once available for public inspection. But the provincial government changed that law more than a decade ago, keeping them privileged.
When CBC News phoned Patten this week to ask if she included the Connors Hill land in her disclosure statement, she hung up.
Council minutes show that Patten did excuse herself from debate when her colleagues unanimously passed the motion to subdivide the disputed land on Connors Hill last summer.
Meeting next week
The Pouch Cove council is scheduled to meet on Monday.
On top of the land dispute, there is another matter on the agenda — an ongoing investigation into a motion passed this summer regarding Patten.
The mayor was declared to be in a conflict of interest because of her day job with the province’s largest union, which also represents workers in the town.
Officials with the Department of Municipal Affairs have wrapped up their probe of the matter, and are scheduled to meet with town councillors on Monday.