Councillors cite threats by e-mailer using fake name

     At least two councillors in Witless Bay said Tuesday they are being harassed by anonymous e-mails, letters and telephone calls.
     The issue came to light during the regular public council meeting. Councillor Ken Brinston said he is taking a lengthy missive sent to his private e-mail address on Sunday evening by a person writing under the pseudonym of Peter McCann as a threat. It warned him not to attend this week’s council meeting, at which some members of council were expected to schedule a Friendly Hearing on a conflict of interest charge against councillor Kevin Smart for voting on the Town Plan, which rezones some of his land to allow residential development.
     From the contents of the e-mail, Brinston said, it appears that ‘McCann,’ whoever he is, is watching his house and monitoring his activities. The councillor read the letter out loud in its entirety for the benefit of council and the residents in the public gallery, which included a vocal contingent of the small group of large property owners off Gallows Cove Road who are opposed to development near Ragged Beach.
     ‘McCann,’ who claims in the letter that he knew Brinston’s grandfather, said he was asked to look into council’s behaviour. He accused Brinston of “collusion” and “conspiracy,” warned him of possible legal liability if he takes any action to vote Smart off council, and suggested he could be investigated by the RCMP.
     “If you are part of a plan to ignore professional legal advice, you could be liable to reputation damages and sued personally for negligence,” McCann charged. “If found negligent, punitive damages as well as substantial litigation costs could ensue… It is certain that should either a civil or criminal action proceed, yourself and the other councillors will be individually deposed…”
     ‘McCann’ went on to warn Brinston against communicating any further with councillors who are moving to vacate Smart’s seat. ‘McCann’ further alleges that one of the other members of council who is participating in the effort to schedule a Friendly Hearing for Smart, “is erratic and has weak reasoning skills. If this is the case I would advise you to no longer collude outside the council chambers with this person for the immediate future.”
     Brinston said that judging by some of the references in the letter, the writer has knowledge of matters that were discussed at private council meetings and not yet made public. He also has knowledge of the personal e-mail address Brinston uses to communicate with the rest of council.
     “Now, I’ve got a question to the two councillors right here,” Brinston said, referring to Mayor Sébastien Després and councillor Smart. “Which one of you wrote this?”
     Brinston then detailed instances referenced by ‘McCann’ pertaining to details of private council meetings on August 12 and 25. “Either one of you two wrote this letter to me, or someone disclosed information of two meetings (to someone else),” Brinston said.
     “I don’t know how to respond to that, but I can tell you I don’t know who Peter Mccann is and I’ve had nothing to do with that letter,” Després said. “Is this person Councillor Smart’s legal counsel?”
     Brinston said whoever ‘McCann’ is, he is trying to “scare me out of here tonight… It’s after crossing a line.” He added that he is happy to debate ‘McCann’ on any issue, or deal with him “man to man,” but if he contacts him on his private e-mail address again, he will go to the police.
     Turning to Smart, Brinston asked whether he knowingly or unknowingly shared information from private council meetings which was forwarded to ‘Peter McCann.’
     “No,” Smart said.
     Brinston posed the same question, individually, to councillors René Estrada and Albert Murphy. Both denied having done so. “Private meetings are to be kept private,” Estrada pointed out.
     Murphy later asked Smart if he has someone writing letters to other councillors on his behalf. “I’m not answering any of these questions,” Smart said, arguing the allegations of conflict of interest against him are unfounded. Smart has claimed since the allegations were raised last fall that he made no request to have his land rezoned under the proposed Town Plan.
     Councillor Estrada, meanwhile, said he too has received threats.
     “This has gone too far,” he said. “There are some people here who are defaming councillors. I have received e-mails defaming specific councillors, which is not what I consider appropriate for this community nor for this type of forum. This should never have happened.”
     The Irish Loop Post has also received e-mails from ‘Peter McCann’ over the past two years opposing development at Ragged Beach and making charges against some of the people involved in the applications. However, all requests to ‘McCann’ to provide a contact address and telephone number to confirm his identity so that the letters can be published have been ignored.
     After the council meeting, Brinston telephoned the Irish Loop Post to say he had a further discussion with Mayor Després and is satisfied he isn’t responsible for the threatening letter from ‘McCann.’
     In other council developments, two attempts by the mayor to have lengthy resolutions passed that would see the reinstatement of Dena Wiseman and Ralph Carey to council were voted down 3-2 with only Smart supporting the motions. Wiseman and Carey saw their seats vacated this past summer for allegedly participating in a discussion about snow clearing on a private road leading to property they own that is getting rezoned for residential development.      In a Notice of Appeal filed with the Supreme Court, the husband and wife councillors admit participating in such a discussion, but claim it was not an official council meeting and therefore the Town had no grounds to vacate their seats.
     Meanwhile, council voted Tuesday to schedule a fourth ‘Friendly Hearing’ for councillor Smart to respond to the conflict of interest allegation against him. Smart failed to show up at the previous three hearings.

Posted on September 11, 2015 .