Petrowski’s leave should not be ex­tended

The Welland Tribune - - Opinion -

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.