Rural politics have taken a nasty turn with a Merritt councillor accusing Mayor Susan Roline’s husband of punching him twice outside the town’s Tim Hortons.
Harry Kroeker alleges Sam Roline verbally abused him, accused him of hassling his wife, and then punched him twice following an exchange during Tuesday’s council meeting.
“Susan and I have differences of opinion and, at council meetings, they come out,” Kroeker said Thursday. “I guess he didn’t like the fact I was challenging his wife at a council meeting.”
The mayor denies her husband punched Kroeker, saying he’s not that type of person.
“There’s not much that I can tell you,” she told the media prior to a meeting of the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board.
During Tuesday’s council meeting, Kroeker asked the mayor to step down from her position on the regional district board because he’d lost confidence in her ability to do the job.
“There just seems to be an attitude of its my way or no way,” he told The Daily News. “She just doesn’t seem to listen to the requests and wishes of council.”
After the meeting, Kroeker, Coun. Kurt Christopherson and former Merritt mayor Bob Baird went to Tim Hortons for a coffee. Sam Roline cornered him on his way back to his car.
“He starts hollering at me ‘Why are you hassling my wife?’” said Kroeker.
When he said he wasn’t, Roline — Kroeker insisted — punched him. The question was asked again, but Kroeker wouldn’t back down. He was hit again, this time on the other side of his head.
Christopherson and Baird intervened. Christopherson said he didn’t see Roline strike Kroeker, but he did see his friend stooped over and pick his hearing aids off the ground.
“I didn’t like what I was hearing. All I could hear was shouting,” said Christopherson.
He asked the men what was going on. He said Roline turned around and yelled at him. The two men got within a couple of inches of each other.
“Some other people came out and I asked them to call the police,” said Christopherson.
Roline stepped away, and Christopherson went to Kroeker’s aid. By that time Kroeker was seated in his car. When Christopherson asked what had happened, Kroeker told him he’d been punched twice.
“Harry was still very shaken at that time,” he said.
While Kroeker contemplates charges, he says he has no intention of backing down from his council duties.
“I won’t be intimidated,” he said.
Christopherson agrees, saying what happened Tuesday night was upsetting and inappropriate.
“That’s not the way that politics should be held anywhere,” he said.
News of the incident has reached others on council. Clara Norgaard said the alleged assault makes her “sick to the stomach.”
“I didn’t think that we had that kind of politics here in Merritt,” she said.
She said councillors have differences of opinion, but that’s council business and shouldn’t be taken personally.
Susan Roline stands by her husband and has no intention of resigning.
“Why would I step down when I’m the one that’s trying to make sure our taxpayers are protected?” she asked, adding there are people on council who don’t like the way she does business.
Sam Roline could not be reached for comment. As for RCMP, Sgt. Norm Flemming said the matter is under investigation.
Flemming said paramedics were dispatched, but no one was taken to hospital.