Carbonear town council removes Mayor Frank Butt over 2014 conflict of interest

Carbonear town council Tuesday voted to remove newly elected Mayor Frank Butt over a conflict of interest.

Butt says he is 'extremely disappointed in council's decision' and he plans to appeal

Carbonear town council voted Tuesday to declare Mayor Frank Butt's seat vacant over a conflict of interest issue stemming back to 2014. (Town of Carbonear)

Carbonear town council Tuesday voted to remove newly elected Mayor Frank Butt over a conflict of interest.

Deputy Mayor Chris O'Grady told CBC on Tuesday night that council received a letter about a 2014 motion by then-councillor Butt for the town to demolish a rundown Carbonear property adjacent to a gas station owned by Butt off Water Street.

"The only allegation was that he would have been in a conflict of interest because there was potential for his property value, I guess, to increase with this," he said.

"The building was dilapidated and there was ongoing negotiations with the town and the property owner to have it demolished, and Mr. Butt made a motion for the town to demolish it at their expense."

It's very unfortunate for us to have to do this. We have no issues with Frank. He's a good councillor, a good mayor.- Chris O'Grady

When a matter comes before council with the potential for conflict of interest with any member, said O'Grady, the onus is on the member to declare the conflict and step aside, without participating in any vote on it.

"But in this case, he made the motion himself," said O'Grady.

After a discussion — with Butt absent — and legal advice from the town's lawyers, council voted to declare Butt's seat vacant. He now has 21 days to file an appeal. He'd then have a hearing with a judge.

O'Grady said the town received the letter, which was copied to Municipal Affairs Minister Eddie Joyce, in September, and passed it on to their lawyers. By the time the town's lawyers provided their advice, the new council had been elected, he said.

The demolished building had been there for years; its most recent occupant was a company called Surprise Bag, which assembled and sold prize bags for children.

O'Grady said it was a tough decision for council.

"We're not happy. We're very upset. This has been ongoing now for a couple of months, and for the brand-new councillors, this was presented to us," he said.

"I'm a brand-new councillor. This was presented to me the same day we had our council orientation. It was a bit of a daunting task, I must say, and we've worked our way through it. It's very unfortunate for us to have to do this. We have no issues with Frank. He's a good councillor, a good mayor."

Butt could not be reached for comment. In a statement posted to Facebook on Tuesday night, he said all motions and decisions he makes are in the best interests of the town, and added he is "extremely disappointed in council's decision" and he plans to appeal.

He also challenged the validity of the letter, which arrived undated, unaddressed and unsigned to the town on Sept. 11.

"The unwritten policy of the town of Carbonear, as with most institutions, is that we do not entertain anonymous letters as we are unable to question the authenticity of the writer," he wrote.