Petrowski’s leave should not be extended
Niagara Region Coun. Andy Petrowski continues to cost taxpayers money, even when silent and absent.
Petrowski, the St. Catharines representative who is so often embroiled in controversy, is set to reignite the flames of dissension at the Region this week as councillors will consider a report recommending that his official leave of absence be extended, with pay, until late September.
A motion is to be brought before council Thursday night that would extend Petrowski's leave to Sept. 25, a week before the final council meeting prior to the Oct. 22 municipal election.
That leave, granted for yet unexplained reasons, was initially approved on Dec. 4 of last year. Petrowski stepped away from council three days after being asked questions by The Standard about a tweet in which he compared the hiring of a transgender minister by a U.K. church to “Sodom and Gomorrah,” and has not returned.
It was his second leave of 2017, the first one being taken in May after he emailed from his regional account a pornographic image to about 100 people — including local politicians, municipal staff and journalists. He returned to council a few months later, but went back on leave shortly after The Standard asked about his tweets about the transgender minister and shortly before the regional integrity commissioner ruled council should suspend Petrowski’s pay over the porn incident.
Petrowski’s current leave was extended in February to May 30. If approved, this new extension would be retroactive to May 31. As a result, council would not have to fill a vacant St. Catharines seat prior to the municipal election.
Under the Municipal Act, a councillor can only be absent from his or her seat for 90 days unless granted a special exemption by council. After those 90 days, council is required to fill that seat either with the runner-up from the last election or with a byelection.
However, if an election is due happen within 90 days of an absence, council does not have to fill that seat.
For people who want to keep count, regional councillors are paid $30,204 per year. If Petrowksi is granted an extension of his leave, he will have been paid roughly a full year’s salary for sitting at home and not representing his constituents. This for a politician who has made a crusade against wasteful government spending his raison d’etre.
To say this situation is unconscionable and ridiculous is an understatement.
Petrowski has been at the centre of the storm on occasions too numerous to recount.
At the time of last year’s pornographic image fiasco, Petrowski said he sent the picture accidentally, claiming a person he has refused to identify attached the image to his email before it was sent out.
His tweets and commentary about gay marriage, Muslims and Jews have outraged residents and he has been the subject of multiple integrity commissioner investigations. He left the police services board while under investigation by the Ontario Civilian Police Commission and made a failed attempt to sue most of regional council to block the release of integrity commissioner reports critical of his conduct.
He also filed as expenses, and was paid for more than $44,000 in external legal bills for consulting a family lawyer about those integrity commissioner reports.
He said in a statement earlier this year that he will not be running for re-election this fall. Good.
But that makes the decision to extend his leave even less comprehensible. He apparently has no intention of returning to council before the election. Why then should he be paid? Why does council continue to treat him with kid gloves?
It’s time for regional council to stop mollycoddling Petrowski, declare his seat vacant, and appoint a replacement for the balance of the term.