Petrowski on the hot seat
St. Catharines councillor can’t be compelled him to follow will of council on this issue, lawyer says
There was no apology from Coun. Andy Petrowski — at least not when he was given an opportunity to do so at the beginning of the meeting.
And Regional Chair Alan Caslin said he has no authority to force the disgraced councillor to provide one.
Petrowski arrived late for Tuesday’s regional council meeting and quietly took his chair making no effort to apologize, despite council’s support of a recommendation by the Region’s integrity commissioner requiring him to apologize for code of conduct violations, and agree not to use his Twitter account in a manner that contravenes the code.
But St. Catharines Coun. Brian Heit pointed out that a report by Caslin made no mention of Petrowski’s return, or any indication that he had apologized or was planning to do so.
“Are we getting an apology tonight?” Heit asked. “Have you gotten apologies? Because right now I’m not sure he should be sitting there.”
As Petrowski sat silently, Caslin said he has no authority to remove him from council chambers.
“In consultation with legal and the clerk’s office, Coun. Petrowski has the right to sit in his chair and I have no authority to do anything about it,” Caslin replied.
Welland Coun. Paul Grenier challenged Caslin’s position on the issue.
“I’m not sure that’s accurate, Mr. Chair,” Grenier told him.
He said the decision of regional council “is absolute.”
“We endorsed the recommendations of the integrity commissioner that asked very simply for an apology of three separate incidents. … No bonus points for style, but either way, that has to occur, or we are essentially thumbing our nose at the council decision.” Grenier said. “If everything that we ask has that type of flexibility, then what’s the point?”
We do have power under the Municipal Act. If we don’t hear an apology, I’ll have a notice of motion to remove his pay for 90 days at the next council meeting.”
St. Catharines Coun. Brian Heit
Caslin referred the questions to the region’s solicitor Sterling Wood, who told Grenier council’s resolution lacks clarity, and the region lacks the authority to prevent an elected member of council from attending the meeting.
“I think you would be going down a slippery slope if you attempt to under the authority of the Municipal Act, expel him from this chamber,” Wood said.
“I appreciate that interpretation, but that isn’t what I voted for,” he said. “There was no attempt to expel. There was an attempt to ask simply for an apology.” Caslin interrupted Grenier. “This is no longer a point of order, Councillor,” he said.
“You’re the one who fobbed it off to staff,” Grenier replied.
“I don’t fob things off to anybody,” Caslin told him.
Grenier said it was a poor choice of words, although “we’re still engaged in the same conversation, and I want to make sure that I understand completely where we are and if we’re still within the rules of order.”
Grenier asked if it was the lack of clarity and “a lack of teeth” that led the integrity commissioner to only recommended an apology.
“I don’t believe it’s a lack of clarity. It is an issue of if you can compel somebody to make an apology,” Wood said.
He said a councillor can be reprimanded, but how the councillor responds to that reprimand is up to the councillor to decide.
“We do have power under the Municipal Act,” Heit said. “If we don’t here an apology, I’ll have a notice of motion to remove his pay for 90 days at the next council meeting.”
As the public portion of the meeting came to a close, Petrowski said he will be submitting “the full extent of his apologies” by Sept 29. He said, however, he will never apologize for quoting scripture.
Coun. Andy Petrowski arrives at Niagara regional council meeting shortly before 7 p.m. Thursday.