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SV Mayor on council resignations, info leaks

Stephenville Mayor Tom Rose. — File photo

By Jaymie White

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

STEPHENVILLE — During the first council meeting held on Jan. 11, councillors Lenny Tiller and Tracy Boland resigned. Council will continue as normal as it still has enough members to meet quorum. Mayor Tom Rose wasn’t taken by surprise by the two resignations.

“We're still really good. I had anticipated. I know Coun. Boland who had been very busy in the town, but when she took over Arlims, a new business, it took up a lot of her time. You got to remember too, when we're doing so much, we're not just sitting there doing nothing. Nobody could be complaining because you're moving files and doing things. People will challenge it, but I'm not surprised that she put in a resignation,” said Rose. “And I'm not surprised in some way too that Coun. Tiller resigned. They're both brand new councillors, only a little over two years under their belt. So you got somebody like me with 30 years, Susan Fowlow with about six, seven years, so not everybody can handle the job. It's not an easy job anymore.”

With all of the new files passing through the Town, things are expected to get lot busier.

“I would say we're probably the busiest council in Newfoundland and Labrador right now, and it's getting these files moving and we got a very small staff, and it takes a lot of extra meetings like this. In 2023, the Port of Stephenville sold to private capital, the airport sold with private capital, no more tax burden on the taxpayers of Stephenville, and now Carl Dymond will be paying us a grant, which is money, instead of us paying the airport authority a grant, which is money,” said Rose. “There's people out there, and not that they're uneducated, they are educated to the fact that what they're putting up is a fallacy, it's not true, and they're doing it intentionally to kind of discredit the council and all the good work we're doing. But when you're on council, you got to be able to take that, and I have no problem handling it, and people that come at me because I just stay focused on one thing, the Town of Stephenville.”

Rose is proud of council's accomplishments since it was elected back in 2021.

“It's unbelievable how many meetings and lobbying that my council and my leaders like Laura Aylward on that file have had with the Health Accord, with the premier, with the health ministers, with senior staff at Western Health, and we just landed a $40 million contract over 20 years to build an advanced healthcare center that's going to be absolutely amazing and enhance the service, help with our retention and recruitment, and that's such a positive story,” said Rose. “And we just sold the paper shed. That's going to put $10 million of new revenue back into the town, and we just partnered with NAWN (Newfoundland Aboriginal Women's Network) to build a $4 million transition house. I'm working with the Francophone Association now to build a French daycare in Stephenville. Like, we're working on so many things and doing so many good things. There's a few people out there that — and, you know, the people that support the council and the town are getting fed up with those few people — that are just saying everything wrong and everything negative. There's people supporting us and fighting back.”

Due to the new vacancies, an election will be held to fill the two empty chairs on council.

“We've got three months to do it. I would say it'll probably be early April. We always like to have it when the weather is better, not in the wintertime. But we still have five councilors. You can actually still operate down to two councillors, so we're in good shape and we're staying focused. Twenty-twenty four is going to give us the green light on the hydrogen plant, and 2024 is going to be one of the most robust economic years in the history of Stephenville,” said Rose. “I'm hoping and praying that we get people stepping forward, but stepping forward for the right reason, to want to work with council as a team who want to focus on the greater good of the town. I hope we don't get just people running because they've got sour grapes or they got a bone to pick, because that would be counterproductive. But you know what? Even if you get one of them, they only have one vote.”

Losing two of their own wasn’t the only issue to pop up for council in recently, as there was a leak of information from one of their privileged meetings, and as a result, some misinformation was circulated regarding the airport and how the Town of Stephenville would be giving a grant of $100,000 to the airport, which is why taxes went up for residents. However, Rose said this information was completely false.

“As a municipality, we operate under a code of ethics. We swear an oath of allegiance when we take office. Our senior staff also do a code to secrecy, and every decision we make must always be brought forward to a public meeting to be discussed, debated, and tabled. So we are open and transparent, but until it gets to that public meeting, we have our privileged meetings. We have our finance meetings. We have our planning meetings. That's where all the discussion on the files happen with senior management and council, but in the past year or so, there's been stuff being leaked out of our privileged meetings. And it's very difficult to prove, but it's very disturbing because some of this information is regarding private sector businesses we're dealing with,” said Rose.

“When people are taking stuff out of a privileged meeting and the very next day, it's that a quasi-public meeting in the town of and being discussed, somebody leaked it. Now, do we have a spy? Do we have somebody that has wiretapped our council chambers? Do we have a member of council or staff that have leaked it? I don't know, but it was getting to the point that I was ready to even see do we have the ability to bring in the RCMP for an investigation here? Because we could not continue like that because it is not to the best interests of the town and the taxpayers. We are trained by municipal affairs on this and there's no excuse and we've been citing that. We've been having these issues happening and we all have suspects, but until we can prove it, we can't name it. But it's very frustrating. So it's my hope that it's over now or if it doesn't over, I'll have to look at further steps to mitigate it.”

This is not the first time something like this has happened.

“It's been happening, but it's just ramping up, and in the game of politics, when you get elected, remember not everybody votes for you. So there's people out there that probably don't want these members of council in office. They might want their friends in council. So there's always going to be people that are opposed to what you're doing, even though what you're doing is right into the best interests of the town,” said Rose. “They're going to be against you just because, and unfortunately not everybody wakes up in the morning on the right side in bed. Some people deliberately get out on the wrong side of the bed. Instead of taking a positive attitude towards their life and their family and their community and their council, they get vexatious, they get defaming, and more so now than ever, you've really got to have thick skin to be on council because it's the new era of everybody at you.”

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