Bay Bulls council wracked by conflict of interest allegations

The largest crowd of spectators to attend in years was on hand last week as Bay Bulls council twisted itself into a tighter knot with three new allegations of conflict of interest coming to light.
Most of the crowd seemed to show up in support of Deputy Mayor Harold Mullowney, who is being accused by fellow councillor Jason Sullivan of being a competing land developer and therefore in a conflict of interest when he discussed Sullivan’s application this past March to acquire 37 acres of Crown land for a 50 lot subdivision.
Sullivan levelled that accusation after Mullowney pointed out in a public council meeting that much of the land in question is wetland and recommended the town get an opinion from the Department of Environment before it accede to Sullivan’s request to develop half acre lots in place of one acre lots.
Because Mullowney was applying for a small piece of Crown land across the highway from his development, Sullivan maintained the Deputy Mayor was a competing developer. Sullivan claimed the land was intended as an access to other property Mullowney has an interest in and intends to develop. Mullowney has denied the allegation.
The crowd in the gallery was clearly anxious for council to get to that matter and at times jawed Mayor Patrick O’Driscoll over his handling of the accusation. O’Driscoll shouted down the crowd and pounded his gavel onto his desk.
But the surprise of the night was when Mullowney insisted that a letter received by council the previous day be reinstated to the agenda for discussion. Mayor O’Driscoll had disallowed the item before the start of the public meeting. After heated debate, and loud complaints from the spectators, the mayor was outvoted.
“This is a democracy, not a dictatorship,” said one woman.
“This reflects back on the whole community,” added another woman. “Harold has been an excellent councillor for 26 years. Harold Mullowney has been an individual who has put himself forward on many occasions to do things that nobody else would. And he deserves the respect of this community.”
Another resident, Kevin O’Brien, suggested Mayor O’Driscoll was himself in a conflict because earlier in the meeting he had voted on a development application from his aunt. O’Driscoll said that wasn’t a conflict of interest under the Municipalities Act. “Don’t get up there and make accusations against me,” he told O’Brien.
As for the letter, it was written by Martina Aylward, who is a partner in a property development company with her brother Ernest Dunn. It accused councillor Sullivan of breaking conflict of interest rules on six or seven occasions. The first charge involved Sullivan allegedly voting on a council motion to pay Sea Gypsy Enterprises, which is owned by his father, almost $2,000 for work down for the Town.
The other allegations centre on Sullivan taking part in discussions and votes involving other development applications. Aylward contends that because Sullivan is a developer - his application for Crown land dates back to August 2013 and he was involved in housing construction before that - he should have excused himself from any decisions involving other subdivision developers.
Aylward and Dunn’s company has filed a legal action against the town over the way council handled its development application in June 2013 involving Crown Land that was also being sought by developer Fraser Paul and sod farmer Christa Luby. The land is about a kilometre or so away from the 37 acres being sought by Sullivan.
In a private meeting in June 2013, council approved Paul’s application in part, along with Luby’s. The decision on Aylward’s and Dunn’s application has never been made fully clear. Meanwhile, council has since rescinded its approval of Luby’s application.
Rather than discuss the allegations against Sullivan publicly, council moved the matter to a privileged session along with the two other allegations involving councillors that were revealed Tuesday night.
The first involves a conflict of interest allegation against councillor Joan Luby stemming to her first night on council.
Luby was elected by acclamation on April 1 and sworn in at the start of the public meeting on April 13. She had asked to be sworn in earlier so that she could get a copy of council’s agenda to prepare for the meeting, but was turned down. Partway through the meeting, Mayor O’Driscoll ordered the public out of the chamber so that council could meet in private. The nature of the discussion was not disclosed. But the Irish Loop Post has learned that it involved developer Fraser Paul’s subdivision application.
Luby said at the time she didn’t even know where Paul’s land was located.
“I said to (the mayor) Patrick, am I in conflict on all this?” Luby recalled. “No one said a thing… It was a decision just to go to a lawyer (for advice), that was all… I said, ‘What is it on? I didn’t know anything about this.’”
The next day, said Luby, Paul wrote the Town accusing her of having broken conflict of interest rules because a corner of the land had also been sought by her sister-in-law, Christa Luby.
“I never knew about that,” said the councillor, pointing out it was first night on council and she had not been given a chance to review any of the information in her councillor’s package before each item came to the table for a discussion and vote.  
Luby said she is unsure how Paul found out about council’s discussion so quickly since it was a privileged session. Sullivan was absent from that night’s meeting and councillor Rick Oxford, who is Paul’s brother-in-law, did not participate in that part of the session.
The third new conflict allegation also involves Paul. He is contending, like councillor Sullivan, that Deputy Mayor Mullowney is a competing land developer and therefore should have abstained from any votes or discussion involving his subdivision application.
Near the end of the public meeting, Mayor O’Driscoll asked the public to clear the chamber so council could meet in private. Two hours later, the chamber doors reopened. Going through each matter one at a time, council agreed to refer each allegation to a lawyer for advice.
Earlier in the meeting, before council broke for the private session, the crowd urged Mullowney to give his side of the story.
“I think I was totally blindsided and set up here,” said Mullowney. “I am not a developer… And yet we have an individual sitting in this chamber, who has told everyone he is a developer, and continues to vote on development… I built my own house (years ago) with a great deal of help from my brothers. I have not built any houses for sale. I am not a developer.”
When councillor Sullivan, who took Mullowney’s remarks as being directed at him, contended he is not a developer either, the crowd groaned and hooted.
“I can’t wait for the next election,” said one of the spectators.
During the whole of the three hour meeting, two uniformed RCMP officers remained standing outside the back of the Town Hall. Mayor O’Driscoll would not say if he had asked the police to remain on standby for the council meeting.

Posted on July 24, 2015 .