By Jaymie White
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
KIPPENS —When the new town council and mayor were elected for the town of Kippens, many felt it represented a chance for a new start. Before then, the town been seen the removal of their previous mayor after an investigation into harassment complaints; however, with the recent resignation of Mayor Mike Comerford and three elected councilors: Jeffrey Young, Carla Pearce, and most recently, Harold Doucette, it seems the Town of Kippens is not yet finished with council woes.
Doucette resigned during the Kippens Town Council meeting on Jun. 9, as a motion was being entered to rescind the motion to have residents vote in a new mayor, opting instead to vote in a new mayor amongst remaining councillors. Doucette was not in favour of that plan.
“There is approximately three years and three months remaining before the next municipal election is called and I think that the next mayor should be elected by the residents of our town and not by present councillors. We are having a by-election for two councillors anyway, so why not have a by-election for a new mayor at the same time? My refusing to vote for a nominated councillor will cause me to lose my seat as councillor of Kippens, but I cannot for the life of me stand by without protest and see this happen. I really believe that our next mayor should be voted in by the residents of Kippens and not by the remaining four councillors.”
On Jun. 17, the Town of Kippens published an information note to offer some background to residents. It stated the following:
• On Jun. 9, the Town of Kippens lost Quorum of Council which means, until a by-election occurs, the Town can only function at an administrative level with no policy or decisions of council able to be made
• On Jun. 10, a letter seeking the authority of the Minister of Municipal and Provincial Affairs was submitted looking for permission for Kippens to function as a Quorum of three councillors, effective immediately, for the remaining three councillors, until the by-election is held
• On May 17, the town administration received the first of four resignations, and under the Municipal Election Act, a by-election will have to be held within three months. The election will be held for mayor and three councillors, and cannot exceed Aug. 17, but can be called at an earlier date.
In addition to the resignation of the majority of the council, who had been in place since the deferred election that took place in Nov. 2021, the Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs has been alerted to a complaint of harassment and other concerns with the Town. In response to email inquiries, the Department issued the following:
“The Department of Municipal and Provincial Affairs is aware of a complaint of harassment. As independent, autonomous bodies, municipalities have the authority to address harassment complaints through their own processes. Every employer, including a municipality, is required to develop, implement and maintain a written harassment prevention plan, and to participate in harassment prevention training and provide training to employees regarding harassment prevention and the harassment prevention plan. Complaints about an employer’s failure to meet these requirements can be made to the Occupational Health and Safety Division of Digital Government and Service NL.”
The Department is also aware of and is reviewing concerns regarding financial matters.
“At this time, the town council has lost quorum but may request that the Minister give permission to the remaining three councillors to continue to function as a council to conduct day-to-day routine business and to call a by-election. The town recently made such a request which has been approved by the Minister.
“Under the Municipal Elections Act, a by-election is required to be called within three months of a seat becoming vacant.”
Currently, no date has been determined for the upcoming by-election.