Corner Brook mayor ejects councillor during argument over — wait for it — proposed code of conduct

Corner Brook Mayor Jim Parsons, pictured, had Coun. Charles Pender removed from Monday night's public city council meeting. (Colleen Connors/CBC - image credit)
Corner Brook Mayor Jim Parsons, pictured, had Coun. Charles Pender removed from Monday night's public city council meeting. (Colleen Connors/CBC - image credit)
Colleen Connors/CBC
Colleen Connors/CBC

Debate over a proposed code of conduct during a Corner Brook city council meeting Monday led to the removal of a city councillor from council chambers, and that councillor is now calling for an apology and third party intervention.

Mayor Jim Parsons slammed his gavel on his desk and asked municipal enforcement to escort Coun. Charles Pender out of the public meeting after some intense discussion that involved the councillor and mayor talking over each other.

Pender called it a "violent outburst of anger, unprovoked and very upsetting," while Parsons defended his actions as necessary to maintain order in the meeting.

"I do have a gavel. I do have to bring things to order," said Parsons, who had warned Pender that he would be removed if he kept talking. "I don't like to do it, but I won't be bullied in council chamber."

Pender said he's the one who was bullied.

"It's intimidation, it's harassment, and it should not be taking place in council chambers or anywhere," said Pender.

Colleen Connors CBC
Colleen Connors CBC

Failed to meet deadline

For the third time in as many public meetings, Corner Brook city council had been reviewing a proposed code of conduct, drafted by city staff in conjunction with the city's lawyer.

The code of conduct is a requirement for all municipalities under the provincial Municipal Conduct Act, and all municipalities were supposed to have their own codes adopted by March 1. Corner Brook was one of about a dozen municipalities that did not meet that deadline.

Pender and several other councillors voted against adopting the proposed code, on the grounds that they weren't involved in developing the document and didn't feel they'd had sufficient time to review and give feedback.

Parsons said the councillors have had a draft version of the document since Feb. 8 and didn't bring their concerns forward to be addressed by staff.


A divided council

The proposed code of conduct, one of the last items on the agenda Monday night, once again led to protracted debate before it finally escalated to the order to remove councillor Pender.

Pender said he believes third-party intervention is needed, not just to resolve the current issue at hand but to deal with overall difficulties faced by the council.

"We have difficulties in sitting down and listening to one another," said Pender. "Somebody has to step in here and say this is not normal behaviour.

"The mayor really needs to apologize for his actions. I don't believe what he did was fitting of the interaction that we had."

Asked for his response to Pender's demand for an apology, Parsons sent CBC a written statement: "I happily apologize when I do something wrong, but in this case I'm simply enforcing the rules of procedure as the presiding officer. If someone gets a speeding ticket would we expect the police officer to apologize?"

Parsons said he's ready to accept whatever code of conduct will meet with council's approval, and he doesn't understand why it's been such a sticking point.

"I'm happy to pass a code of conduct. I'll pass anything, even if there are legal questions with it. Those will be resolved in the courts, if not around the table in council. But we do need to pass it. We are not in compliance right now," he said.

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