Petrowski billed tax­payer for legal fees

The Niagara Falls Review - - NEWS - GRANT LAFLECHE glafleche@post­

St. Catharines re­gional coun­cil­lor Andy Petrowski billed tax­pay­ers for his drive to court to sue fel­low coun­cil­lors in May.

Ac­cord­ing to re­gional fi­nan­cial doc­u­ments ob­tained by Post­media un­der Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion leg­is­la­tion, Petrowski filed and was re­im­bursed for two 62 kilo­me­tre trips to the Wel­land court­house on May 9 and 12 re­lated to his failed at­tempt to block the re­lease of in­tegrity com­mis­sioner re­ports that said he vi­o­lated the Re­gion’s code of con­duct.

The doc­u­ments, which de­tail his ex­penses from April and May of this year, also show he was re­im­bursed for mileage for three trips to Mis­sis­sauga for legal meet­ings re­gard­ing in­tegrity com­mis­sioner mat­ters — two for 208 kilo­me­tres and one for 231 kilo­me­tres — and mileage for mul­ti­ple trips to meet with re­gional chair­man Alan Caslin.

The doc­u­ments do not say who in Mis­sis­sauga Petrowski was meet­ing with in May, nor specif­i­cally what the meet­ings were for. They are listed in the doc­u­ments by Petrowski as “I.C Com­plaint -Legal” and “I.C. Legal - Set­tle Ac­count.”

There are no legal bills for May meet­ings filed by Petrowski in the spring or sum­mer. Post­media is in the process of ac­cess­ing the ex­pense re­ports for all coun­cil­lors for the en­tire term of this gov­ern­ment.

The mileage ex­penses for April and May — which to­tal to around $665 — hap­pen dur­ing the cli­max of a con­tro­ver­sial pe­riod for Petrowski dur­ing which he was un­der in­tense pub­lic scru­tiny that be­gan with the in­tegrity com­mis­sioner re­ports and ended when he sent a porno­graphic im­age to around 100 peo­ple from his re­gional email ac­count.

It was also dur­ing that pe­riod that Petrowski filed the bill for hav­ing con­sulted Toronto lawyer Elaine F. Gor­don re­gard­ing the three in­tegrity com­mis­sioner com­plaints against him. The doc­u­ments show Gor­don billed Petrowski $49,494 for her ser­vices which in­cluded “meet­ing and tak­ing in­struc­tions”, re­view­ing doc­u­ments, re­view­ing the re­gion’s code of con­duct, re­search, pro­vid­ing opinion let­ters, of­fer­ing legal ad­vice, and talking to Petrowski on the phone.

Petrowski filed three re­ceipts from Gor­don. The list of ser­vices pro­vided is iden­ti­cal in each case, save for the dates.

Ac­cord­ing to the doc­u­ments, Petrowski met with Gor­don three times in a two-week pe­riod in Fe­bru­ary.

Petrowski sub­mit­ted the full $49,494 as ex­penses to the Re­gion and was re­im­bursed for $44,571. The doc­u­ments do not ex­plain the dif­fer­ence.

Gor­don con­firmed Petrowski hired her re­gard­ing the in­tegrity com­mis­sioner mat­ters, but said she did not rep­re­sent him dur­ing his at­tempt to sue most of coun­cil.

The for­mer in­terim in­tegrity com­mis­sioner John Mas­carin found in May that Petrowski vi­o­lated coun­cil’s code in three in­stances — two re­gard­ing his tweets and one re­gard­ing his con­duct at a pub­lic meet­ing.

The day be­fore Mas­carin’s re­ports were to be made pub­lic, Petrowski at­tempted to get an in­junc­tion to block their re­lease. Claim­ing the re­ports vi­o­lated his rights un­der the Char­ter of Rights and Free­doms, Petrowski filed suit against 24 of the 31 re­gional coun­cil­lors.

A judge threw the case out and Petrowski, who rep­re­sented him­self in court, was or­dered to pay $5,500 in ex­penses along­side Fort Erie res­i­dent Fred Bracken who joined him in the suit.

Coun­cil even­tu­ally voted to ac­cept Mas­carin’s rec­om­men­da­tion that Petrowski apol­o­gize to coun­cil. It also voted to re­move Petrowski from his com­mit­tee mem­ber­ships un­til he un­der­takes sen­si­tiv­ity train­ing.

Petrowski was to re­spond to Mas­carin’s re­port at a coun­cil meet­ing, but ended up tak­ing a leave of ab­sence for most of the sum­mer af­ter he emailed the porno­graphic im­age and had his ac­cess to re­gional com­mu­ni­ca­tions equip­ment and ac­counts sus­pended.

In July Petrowski called the re­quire­ment for sen­si­tiv­ity train­ing “a joke” and told CKTB 610 AM that he will not apol­o­gize to coun­cil.

How­ever, on Thurs­day, Petrowski told the ra­dio sta­tion he would apol­o­gize to coun­cil that night.

Petrowski has not re­sponded to re­quests for an in­ter­view from post­media.

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