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Deputy mayor switch

Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Derek Neary (May 06/05) - As accusations of conflict of interest were levelled, village council took away Dennis Nelner's title as deputy mayor on Monday.

With a full slate of councillors present, only Nelner voted directly against the motion. Coun. Tom Wilson abstained, which counts as an opposed vote.

Following the vote, Nelner got up from the table and said, "See you guys later."

As he strode towards the door, Mayor Raymond Michaud said, "You're not kicked out of council. You're still a councillor, Dennis."

"Right," Nelner said without looking back and breezing up the stairs.

Bob Hanna was chosen to replace Nelner as deputy mayor. He said he was confident he could bring dignity to the role.

On Tuesday, Nelner told the Drum he doesn't think he'll return to council.

"What's the point? I get sidetracked on every issue I try to bring to the table," he said. "It's almost pointless."

Prior to calling for Nelner's removal as deputy mayor, Michaud accused Nelner of being in conflict of interest by speaking to and voting on a Northwest Company gas bar development permit amendment.

At the April 4 village council meeting, Nelner, who also manages TJ's Grocery store and gas pumps, declared himself in conflict with the Northwest Company's gas bar application. However, he remained in the room to listen to the company's management make a presentation on the application and then rose concerns about it before departing.

On Monday, he spoke to items relating to the Northwest Company's proposed gas bar - including a petition against it, which he started himself - and voted against the amendment to the gas bar.

Michaud cited a section of the Conflict of Interest Act, which states: "Where a member... shall not take part in the consideration of discussion of, or vote on any question with respect to, the contract, proposed contract or other matter, or attempt in any way whether before, during or after the meeting to influence the voting on any such question."

"I feel Mr. Nelner is liable to deal with these conflicting issues," said Michaud.

The Supreme Court would rule on any such allegation. The penalty for those found guilty is removal from council for up to five years and a maximum fine of $5,000.

Michaud said after the meeting that he's not going to file a complaint with the courts unless Nelner persists.

"At this time I don't plan doing it, but I'm keeping my options open," the mayor said.

On Tuesday, Nelner wouldn't concede any conflict on his behalf by voting on the amendment to the Northwest Company's gas bar development permit.

"What net gain was there for me?" he asked. "If the vote was swinging my way it didn't mean anything, not of any financial gain."