Wells suspended from PUB
Former mayor says he did nothing wrong
Public Utilities Board (PUB) chairman Andy Wells has been suspended with pay, as the Department of Justice reviews his conduct and comments he made to The Telegram last week.
Wells has been sending aggressive, critical emails to members of St. John’s city council from his official Public Utilities Board email address.
Justice Minister Andrew Parsons wouldn’t go into details about what the review will entail, or what specific issues the government will look at.
But he did note the stature the PUB chairman carries.
“The Public Utilities Board is a very important, quasi-judicial body. It’s been around since Confederation, and its role is well documented,” Parsons said.
“Its chairperson is in many ways akin to a judge”
On the other hand, when The Telegram got Wells on the phone, he was a bit more forthright.
“The main reference, in the letter that I got, is to the interview with The Telegram’s James Mcleod,” Wells said.
Last week, The Telegram reported on the emails Wells had been sending to members of city council, which several municipal politicians called “abusive” and “bullying.”
In one email, for example, he wrote to Coun. Danny Breen with a lengthy script for an attack ad deriding Breen’s mayoral campaign.
“This is a draft of an ad that my ad agency will run in the coming months to expose you for the backroom connniver (sic) and small time political operative that you really are,” Wells wrote.
“In addition I will reveal to the public how shallow and superficial you were on our Muskrat Falls conversation. I am sure you will not recall same but I do.”
It’s the bit about Muskrat Falls that caused the biggest stir, since Wells was responsible for studying the massive hydroelectric project during his time as chairman of the PUB.
When The Telegram spoke to Wells last week, he said he bumped into Breen at Costco years earlier on a Saturday morning, and tried to convince Breen that the City of St. John’s should seek intervener status on the Muskrat Falls project.
Wells says Breen brushed him off; Breen has said the whole thing didn’t happen.
After Parsons heard about this last week, he said the situation was “flabbergasting” and requested a copy of the interview tape, which The Telegram provided to him.
Wells said as far as he’s concerned, there’s nothing untoward about him trying to coax the City of St. John’s to participate in the Muskrat Falls hearing, because it wasn’t a formal regulatory process.
“This was outside the Public Utilities Act. We didn’t make any binding rulings,” he said. “There was no quasi-judicial aspect to this. It was just an advisory role. So I am unsure what it is that I have done wrong.”
As for the later email to Breen saying he was going to reveal all publicly, sent from his PUB email address, Wells said there’s nothing untoward with that, either.
“What’s wrong with that? That’s what you try to do as a reporter, don’t you? You’re at that all the time. Good for you, that’s your job,” Wells said.
“I didn’t threaten him. I said I’m going to tell the people of St. John’s what you’re up to, what you’re like. And I’ve got serious problems with Breen.”
He added, “I mean, I was clearly acting in the public interest, as far as I thought. You’d better print that.”
Wells has been particularly vocal about the subsidy given to the AHL St. John’s Icecaps hockey team through a generous reduction to their lease agreement at Mile One Centre, and perceived secrecy at city hall when it comes to council decisions and spending taxpayer dollars.
Some people who watch municipal politics closely say all of this is tied up in Wells’ plan to run in the upcoming election, and win back his old role as mayor of St. John’s.
Wells says he hasn’t made up his mind if he’s going to run or not.