Petrowski on the hot seat

St. Catharines coun­cil­lor can’t be com­pelled him to fol­low will of coun­cil on this is­sue, lawyer says

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - FRONT PAGE - ALLAN BENNER STAN­DARD STAFF

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.

Gre­nier per­sisted.

“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.

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