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Town council votes to silence mayor

Town Council members don't want Mayor Robert McEwen speaking for the town to the press or anyone else.

At a fiery meeting Tuesday, council members voted 4-1, with McEwen dissenting, to censure the second-term mayor for comments he made to government officials about the community's controversial beach renourishment project and for discussing town business with reporters.

"The mayor is not representing the council even though when you read it in the newspaper it sounds like he is," said councilman Albert E. Curran, who introduced the censure motion.

McEwen, known for being outspoken, said he has always made it clear when talking to the public that he is speaking for only himself.

"If you look in the paper you will see that beautiful personal pronoun, I," he said. "I speak for myself and I will continue to do so.

"I suggest you read the Constitution of the United States, the Bill of Rights and the Charter of the town of Indian Shores," McEwen said. "Frankly, you're violating the hell out of it."

Despite many heated references to free speech, town attorney Robert Walker said the council action had no real constitutional implication.

"He was censured for past comments. He can do it again, and they can censure him again," said Walker. "There's really nothing they can do to him. The ultimate sanction is up to the electorate."

McEwen maintains that the move was part of a continuing effort by the council to force him out of office.

Council members, however, argue that the mayor runs roughshod over parliamentary procedure at meetings and goes behind their backs to the media to further his agenda.

Councilwoman Jeanne Call accused McEwen of "undermining your council."

Curran said he wants McEwen to go before the council for permission before discussing council business with anyone.

Resident Iris Willis said she applauded the censure and called McEwen "an embarrassment to the people of this town."

At issue is a conversation McEwen had with a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers official. He told the official to expect calls from residents opposed to the beach renourishment project.

Curran said the mayor overstepped his authority by placing the call before representatives of the beach advisory committee had a chance to talk to the official.

The councilman also pointed to an incident in August when a city employee resigned and portions of his resignation letter that were critical of the council appeared in the newspaper.

McEwen said he was unfazed by the censure and that it came as no surprise. "They've been against me since the day they got into office," he said.