Meet Betty Moore, mayor of Canada’s most dysfunctional municipality

The mayor of Clarke’s Beach, Nfld., is on the Rock and in a hard place

Photograph by Greg Locke

Toronto’s city council is polarized. Montreal’s is engulfed in corruption allegations. But neither metropolis can call itself the most dysfunctional municipal government in Canada. Not compared to the tiny town of Clarke’s Beach, Nfld., population 1,300.

Located on Conception Bay, about an hour west of St. John’s, the seaside village is described by residents and tourists alike as tranquil and scenic. The town’s official website promotes Clarke’s Beach as a favourite destination for artists and retirees. This serene picture, however, belies a rancorous feud within the municipal government that has put the community’s popular mayor, Betty Moore, on a collision course with the majority of the town’s councillors. With wild accusations flying from both sides—that the mayor is a dictator, or that councillors are staging a coup—the council recently took the extraordinary step of stripping Clarke’s Beach residents of the power to directly pick their own mayor in future elections.

Since being elected as the town’s first female mayor in 2005, and then re-elected in 2009, Moore’s relations with most of her six long-time councillors have grown increasingly strained. She says she ran for office because she felt the direction of the town had stagnated. “We didn’t seem to have much activity, we didn’t seem to have much progress,” she says. On the other hand, Deputy Mayor Kevin Hussey accuses the mayor of running roughshod over council’s wishes. “Betty Moore is operating a dictatorship,” he says. “She doesn’t take direction.” Things came to a head in August when Hussey called an emergency meeting to approve a large land purchase on a civic holiday. The councillors voted to buy a stretch of waterfront property for $40,000. Mayor Moore, who was at a scheduled community event at the time, says she was not told of the meeting and that the deal was hastily done. Hussey, meanwhile, says the mayor was told of the meeting and chose not to come. Whatever the case, at a public meeting several days later Hussey brought forward a motion to scrap the town’s two-ballot system, under which residents are given the chance to vote directly for the position of mayor. Instead, they voted to go back to a system used prior to 2005, which gives councillors the power to choose the mayor from their own ranks. According to Robert Keenan, an official with Municipalities Newfoundland and Labrador, an umbrella organization representing cities and towns, communities that use this type of electoral system have traditionally given the role of mayor to the councillor who garners the most votes. But, perhaps ominously for Moore, Clarke’s Beach councillor Roland Andrews says that rule is “not cast in stone.”

A municipal election is scheduled for next year. The ongoing rift between the mayor and her councillors has sparked an outcry from Clarke’s Beach citizens, most of whom describe their council as “totally dysfunctional.” Whereas most small towns on Conception Bay generally attract just a couple of citizens to town council meetings, residents of Clarke’s Beach have been showing up to meetings by the dozens and have peppered the local newspaper with angry letters. “I am of the opinion that the town council of Clarke’s Beach couldn’t organize a Sunday school picnic,” says long-time resident and RV-park owner Ernie Mugford. The mayor, he says, “is just being buffaloed.” Adds Wallace Reid, a retired businessman, “three or four people have got together and they want to run the whole show.” For his part, Hussey says comments posted on the newspaper’s website criticizing the council’s move were written by the mayor’s “plants.”

Moore remains guarded in her choice of words regarding her battle with her fellow councillors. “I’ve felt for a long time that [council] doesn’t want me to be the leader and be mayor, but I’m just getting that from council, not the community,” she says. Even so, she’s in the process of rounding up supporters to run as new candidates next year. And that, she believes, could finally give her the edge over her political foes.




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Meet Betty Moore, mayor of Canada’s most dysfunctional municipality

  1. Snippets of St. John’s city council meetings were frequently aired on “As It Happens”. The fights between the then mayor and the council were quite entertaining.

  2. Not a thing wrong with Betty Moore and rest assure i am not one of her plants, i reside in a neighboring town, council needs to get rid of the Kevin Husseys in that chamber, he is the problem and will slowly but surely bring that town down to nothing, Ms Moore has worked hard over the last 7 years to improve the town while other councillors call emergency meetings on a holiday and buys land for 40,000 dollars without the major knowing this, seems they like to do things on their own over there, im sure glad this isnt my town or i would be having dept of municipality affairs shut them down, if i was a resident of that town i would be shamed to say what has been happening .

    • Ditto

  3. How does this end up as National news, and if you want a true view of dysfunctional, just look at the last 20 years of the Portugal Cove / St. Philips town council in Newfoundland!!

    • Case in point: Council gives Anglican church permission to build new church knowing the plan is to tear down the old one once completed – then refuses to issue a demolition permit and declares the site a heritage site so the parish is stuck looking after two buildings. All because some non-churchgoers like the way the old church looks (or looked before someone cut the steeple off).

  4. Kevin Hussey is the problem! Get him out of there!

    • agree, he is the dictator

  5. There is more yo this story than meets the eye. Got look at the whole picture. Start with paying 50000 for a 12 year old garbage truck that was not got for there needs. Why did this not go to public tender? Paying 40000 for a very small piece of property, with even having it appraised, and conducting a needs assessment. Look st the possible legal cost to the tax payers with regards to filling in the Glam. For the second time, after they were order to remove the fill from the first fill by the department of environment. Having a person dit on council that do not even live in the community. And the list goes on… this article only scratches the surface of what is going on.

  6. There’s too many “buddies” in this system. $40 000 for a little piece of land, for what??? $50 000 for a 12 year old garbage truck, for what??? What about the inadequate water lines in the community. Not to mention the fact that a sizable chunk of Clarke’s Beach don’t even have water and sewer. Try looking for fire hydrants….I bet you can count them on two hands. Everyone is doing what they want to do; when they want to do it. There’s no point to even attend meetings because the minute you speak against a member on the counsel or their “ideas,” you’re automatically shut down and told to “sit down.” That’s if you’re allowed to speak to begin with. They want to do things their way or no way. And that makes it difficult when you have members of the counsel that have different ways. Total joke!! Get rid of them all and vote new members. Maybe that’s the change we need to make things better.

  7. I think personally Betty Moore has done a wonderful job representing her town.I see her attending all town functions when she is able she speaks a strong voice and she should be proud what she has accomplished for the town of Clarkes Beach.As for the Deputy Mayor I think it’s time for him to go he’s been around and involved with council way to long.I’d say he’s been there since John Efford first ran for MHA…lol…I hope this is a learning experience for the council.The resident’s of Clarkes Beach should hold their head high a be proud of their beautiful town and not worry what any magazine says!

  8. This headline saddens me. This is not the image I hope others across Canada should have of my beautiful hometown, but perhaps this will motivate others to become more engaged in municiple government in their town. Get involed, put your name on the ballot in 2013 and get out and vote for people who willput the interests of the community before their own selfish agenda. From what I see Mayor Moore has shown dignity and grace under fire as she stands up to bullies and the old boys club who want to govern by backroom deals and closed door tactics. I trust the citizens of Clarkes Beach can see what is going on here and step up to support her and their community.

  9. I moved away from home over 15 years ago and my family still live there. I love the place but there are many problems in the community. The mayor is doing here best with what she has to work with. I don’t understand why the council needs to have more land? What are they going to do with it?? What can one build there that is no already in the community. IT was a waste off money as always. Who was this bought from and what favor did the people who approved the buying getting from that person?

    People need to follow the chain off command not do what they want. I say for the people to fight about this. It is such a small community with little money. Maybe spend that money on upkeep off the community or go after the people that don’t pay their taxes?

    Land is not needed for the community unless they are planing to build something NOT just to line a friends pocket or have on hand just in case they may need it.

    So sick off people wasting time and money.

  10. Kevin Hussey is the problem, he’s uneducated and not rational with the tax payers money. Who needs a secretive dictator running our town, no one .

  11. I am so ashamed of all the negative comments. Kevin Hussey is only one voice on council. I can see from alot of the comments they are the mayor’s friends just trying to make her look good.

    • i am a resident of an adjoining town, n rest assure i know both the major and deputy major, and from my view Kevin is the biggest problem on that council and in that town, for gods sake he sold land and then he gives the council permission to remove fill of land he had sold a year earlier, wasnt his fill to give away

  12. I think everyone needs to pause for a moment and take a closer look at what is going on in Clarke’s Beach. If I’m reading the same article that everyone else is reading it seems to me that clearly Mayor Betty Moore is the real problem here. The article clearly states that “Moore’s relations with most of her six long-time councillors have grown increasingly strained.” Furthermore, the article again clearly states that “The ongoing rift between the mayor and her councillors has sparked an outcry from Clarke’s Beach citizens, most of whom describe their council as “totally dysfunctional.” Folks, it sounds to me like it’s Mayor Moore who is against the entire council, which makes me wonder if she might be the problem, not the council. It also seems to me that Deputy Mayor Kevin Hussey is getting beaten up here because he is the other person that Macleans actually spoke to. If they had spoken to Councillor Vokey, Councillor Andrews or some other councilor, would we all beat up on him too? I think it’s about time someone (Deputy Mayor Kevin Hussey) spoke up about what Mayor Moore is really like and the fact that she is trying to run a dictatorial form of government in that beautiful town. By the simple fact that “she’s in the process of rounding up supporters to run as new candidates next year. And that, she believes, could finally give her the edge over her political foes,” which, I might add, is taken right from the article, tells me she is trying to create, run and operate a dictatorship. In history, what is the first thing a dictator does before he/she takes control? He/she surrounds him/herself with “supporters” which empowers him/her to truly run and maintain a dictatorial regime. Clarke’s Beach needs more residents and councillors like Deputy Mayor Hussey to keep people informed as to what’s really going on inside the Council Chambers and throughout the town. This is true democracy that’s open, transparent and easy to understand.
    Keep up the great work, Deputy Mayor Kevin Hussey and a sincere thank you for not “surrounding yourself with supporters” like Mayor Moore is doing to hijack the next election in your town. Democracy will win in the end!

    • God no more like Deputy Hussey. I am afraid you must have read a different article then the rest off the people. I am a friend to neither but people need to look at the big picture. You have to chose the lesser off the two evils.

      • Just found out that the land council got was a piece off land on the water front by Harbour view groceries. A concrete slab lot that was once a cub board shop on the beach. Kevin and some council members are planing to move the old train station house onto the slab. What the heck are they doing this for? The place is falling down and unable to be moved. Again council waste money and Kevin with his insider trading. Time for a NEW council and have the old gone. Time for a change people. Wake up Clarke’s Beach and move into the new world. Bring the beautiful community back to to light.

    • lmao, what are you one of Kevins plants

  13. Looking for adsifunctional city? Visit Toronto with Ford as Mayor.

  14. As a taxpaying resident of this town who does attend council meetings, and someone who has actually read the Municipalities Act, I strongly suggest the entire Council is dysfunctional and dictatorial. This merry band of misfits has tried very hard to destroy Clarkes Beach. Just drive by on the main highway through the town, look across the pond, and see that they have indeed turned this once beautiful town into a sprawling trailer park. There are hundreds of camper trailers parked there and using our services year round while paying no taxes. Residents had a water ban all summer while campers freely used all the water they wanted. The park is supposed to have 150 campsites but clearly has double that number and is a complete eyesore. The councillors, all once cozy friends, by the way, of the park owner, (the only resident the magazine bothered to speak with and clearly directed there by his friend Kevin Hussey) choose to look the other way. The garbage truck, the glam, the land by the ocean, all pale in comparison to that disaster. So for residents of other communities, if you see something going wrong, step in right away. Don`t allow councils to carry on in secrecy as Clarkes Beach did for so long and don`t depend on Municipal Affairs to bail you out when really bad things happen in your town because they really don`t want to know and have no intention of doing anything except offering up platitudes and lies when you bring serious concerns to their attention. Clarkes Beach has become a joke and with this Council and Mayor, rightly so! One of the councillors hasn`t even lived in the community for over a year and a half. Another sleeps through much of the meetings. What right thinking Mayor would allow that! Dysfunctional, uneducated and interested only in themselves and looking after their friends, that`s the burden the residents of Clarkes Beach have with their Council. Time for all of them to go.

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