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Fired Wabana clerk learns of dismissal on Twitter

11/26/2014 02:53 EST | Updated 01/26/2015 05:59 EST
William Peddle, a municipal employee who was fired during a crowded and raucous council meeting Tuesday night in Wabana, a small island town west of St. John's, learned of his fate through social media.

Peddle had previously been suspended with pay by the town clerk for failing to turn over a document relating to tax collection efforts. Peddle spoke to CBC News as part of an investigation that looked at the council's financial practices, includes Peddle's allegation that the town's mayor received a tax break.  

Peddle said he refused to co-operate, because he was told the document would be discussed at a council meeting that he was not permitted to attend.

Peddle was one of more than 50 people who crowded into the public gallery on Tuesday night. Many were hoping to make a presentation to council following weeks of bitter accusations and rancour, including calls for the resignation of Mayor Gary Gosine, allegations of favouritism and demands for a forensic audit of the town's finances.

But when Gosine announced that citizens would not be permitted to speak, Peddle and a handful of others stormed out of the meeting, complaining that their rights were being quashed.

Services no longer required

The outburst set the stage for what was an acrimonious 2½ hours of arguing, shouting, insults and outright hostility.

Temperature reached a fever pitch late in the meeting when Deputy Mayor Carol Brown tabled a motion calling for the termination of Peddle, a part-time accounts receivable clerk.

After some heated debate, the motion passed by a vote of 4-2.

A CBC News tweet is how Peddle learned of his termination.

Peddle rushed back to the town hall and then stormed into the meeting. He angrily denounced the decision, and described some council members as "a bunch of crooks."

An RCMP officer escorted Peddle to the lobby, where he spoke with CBC News.

"I was fired for one reason only. To shut up because I decided to speak about what was going on. That's the only reason," Peddle stated.

Questioning the mayor

In a prior interview, Peddle alleged that Gosine had received tax breaks, and that many other citizens in the town were also being granted substantial discounts. 

"I questioned the mayor on some of the things he did," said Peddle. 

Peddle said he has proof of his allegations, and said he would be talking to his lawyer before announcing his next steps.

Gosine has repeatedly denied that he has received tax breaks, and forcefully countered allegations of wrongdoing or suggestions the town was being mismanaged.

Gosine, who has been embroiled in a bitter conflict with councillors David Foley and Ben Warford, also defended the decision to fire Peddle.

"We had advice from our lawyer who told us we had the right to do what we did. And this gentleman never had a report done that was asked for over a month, so it wasn't a hard thing to do. It had to be done," said Gosine.

Typically, sensitive personnel issues are debated in private meetings, and then ratified during the public session.

Peddle said he had no regrets about his actions.

"From the time I got the job I told council one thing. I would not show favouritism. I would not give discounts to relatives, and I would treat everybody the same. For some reason it's a dirty word around here," Peddle said.

Gosine believes the town can overcome the division, but said it will take an effort on everyone's part, especially Foley and Warford.

"It's time for them to act like councillors for the best benefit of the town. You saw the audience reaction here tonight, and I don't think they're pleased with these two councillors."

Foley and Warford left the municipal building before they could be interviewed.

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