Wells sus­pended from PUB

For­mer mayor says he did noth­ing wrong

The Telegram (St. John’s) - - FRONT PAGE - BY JAMES MCLEOD

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.


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