Monday, 10 March 2014

An open letter to the Citizens of Niagara

Dear Citizen,
 In our efforts to report on the machinations of the Niagara Regional Government we have come face to face with a political regime which feigns concern for their ‘official code of conduct’ yet that same regime denies legitimate code of conduct complaints even when the complaints  are accurate to the letter?
In 2013 the Niagara Regional Government received a ‘Code of Conduct’ complaint that was based on a history of false accusations emanating from Niagara Regional Councillor Brian McMullan, Under the Code of Conduct heading, Respect, Truth, Honesty and Integrity’ followed by clause 1. Members of Council shall respect the values of truth, honesty and integrity in all Niagara Region matters, issues and activities’.
Some on the Regional Council had near cardiac arrest when a known ‘questioner of political conduct’ had been duly elected as a member of what is often termed, ‘their private Niagara Country Club’.
They found the threat so great that they started a whisper campaign of false accusations against a duly elected fellow council member. They went so far as to create a fictitious ‘straw man’ under the pseudonym of ‘Tim Lewis’ to lay false charges against and target a fellow councillor.
Even with evidence that allegations were trumped up and false and even including the admission from Niagara Regional Councillor Brian McMullan that he knew the people behind this criminal act he continued to utilize the phony Tim Lewis e-mail deception in a further attempt to damage a fellow councillor’s credibility. To date there has been no inquiry or even discernible concern from either the Niagara Regional Government or Regional Chair Gary Burroughs, which is evidence that Councillor McMullan’s conduct was and is officially sanctioned.
Such appalling conduct VIOLATES the code under the heading: Respect, Truth, Honesty and Integrity Clause 2. Members of Council shall not impose their personal, moral or religious standards on others as every person is an individual with specific rights, values, beliefs and personality traits to be respected at all times.
Niagara Regional Councillor Brian McMullan continued to breach the Niagara Region’s ‘Code of Conduct’ and furthermore is continuing to do so with his January, 2014 attack and his bald-faced refusal to identify the criminals behind the Tim Lewis treachery.
Predicated on his continuing efforts to blacken a fellow councillor’s name, Councillor McMullan has also been breaching The Niagara Region’s ‘Code of Conduct’ under the heading Pursuit of Excellence Clause 1. Members of Council shall act in the best interest of the community, in a responsible manner, and be held accountable for their actions.
Surely councillors can disagree with decisions and policy without being subjected to such draconian, Machiavellian and deceitful false accusations aimed at discrediting that councillor’s ability to council for their constituents and even worse the deliberate and squalid attempt at character assassination.
After their repugnant lying and scheming failed, they sic an expensive ($10,000 per month) ‘Company Man’, under the guise of an ‘Integrity Commissioner’, on their targeted fellow councillor in an effort to denigrate and intimidate.
 Now that their dastardly and cowardly attempt has backfired have we heard one word of contrition?
Hell no! These ‘Code of Conduct’ aficionados actually believe that they acted with ‘Integrity’!  
What can you do when the whole of the Niagara Regional Regime is fully aware of such proven and disturbing breach of their precious ‘Code of Conduct’ and yet treats the breach with silence, indifference and even condones this serious and treacherous conduct?
Any Councillor not addressing this conspiracy is them self in breach of Niagara’s ‘Code of Conduct’ and is no servant of the Niagara citizen and not worthy of being re-elected!

Bull acknowledges need to go easier in china shop

St. Catharines - The Case of the Niagara Regional Name Tag may have been resolved.
And it's St. Catharines Coun. Andy Petrowski who appears to have come out smelling like a rose, or at least a petunia.

You may recall a column last week that described how tongues were wagging at Niagara Region over unsubstantiated reports Petrowski had some sort of unpleasant altercation with a regional employee last summer.

A letter sent to the councillor from the Region's CAO, Mike Trojan, in late October raised allegations he had come into contact with the name tag of an off-duty employee during the interaction; a widely circulated e-mail from someone identifying himself as Tim Lewis claimed Petrowski had poked the employee hard enough to knock the tag off.

Petrowski said both reports were false and the incident never happened.

St. Catharines Mayor Brian McMullan further fanned the flames by sending a letter to Regional Chair Gary Burroughs, expressing concern for the welfare of the female employee in question and wondering why other councillors hadn't been made aware of the incident.

McMullan, who acknowledging knowing those behind the Tim Lewis e-mail, also suggested Petrowski was a bully and displayed a rude demeanour to regional employees.

Petrowski reports he received another letter from Trojan this week. The tag-touching accusation was retracted, he said.

Petrowski, who declined to release the letter in its entirety, read to me what he said were pertinent portions of it.

Trojan wrote to Petrowski that in light of what was alleged in the Lewis e-mail, the female employee was interviewed again.
"She reiterated that she was approached by a man with a Niagara Region ID, previously unknown to her (later identified as you.) She acknowledged you did not touch her or her name tag.
"She also advised that while you appeared initially angry, her conversation with you concluded civilly, and she is content that the matter now be closed."

Petrowski contends he wasn't wearing Region ID at the time and he's puzzled over why he was described as angry.

That aside, Petrowski said he feels vindicated by the second letter, adding "it's unfortunate the Region reacts prematurely to any anonymous accusations that get made."

He maintains he has become a target for some people at the Region because of his aggressive challenges to accepted Region practices and his unwillingness to rubber-stamp staff reports.

However, Petrowski indicated his style of approach may change.

"Bully? No. Bull, as in bull meets china shop? I guess," he said.

"And the message here is I probably have to soften the points on my horns just a little bit."


Petrowski, McMullan at odds over accusations flying at Region 

St. Catharines - Leaked confidential information that led to a widely circulated e-mail accusing a regional councillor of an inappropriate altercation with a staff member has tongues wagging at Niagara Region.

The accused councillor - Andy Petrowski of St. Catharines - believes he's the victim of a witch hunt, charges St. Catharines Mayor Brian McMullan is inappropriately sticking his nose into the dispute and suggests unnamed forces at the Region want to oust him.

McMullan scoffs at any suggestion Petrowski is a victim. Regional Chairman Gary Burroughs isn't talking.
There had been some behind-the-scenes rumblings this fall about an encounter between Petrowski and a regional staffer, but the chatter around it increased considerably following the circulation of the mysterious e-mail.

On Nov. 26, someone identifying himself as Tim Lewis sent Petrowksi an e-mail stating he had learned the councillor had been involved in an unpleasant altercation with a regional employee and that, as a result, Petrowski had been sent a letter of admonishment from the Region.

In light of this information, Lewis said Petrowski should "do the right thing" and resign his seat immediately.
The e-mail was copied to regional council, St. Catharines city council and members of the media.

In an e-mail response the next day, Petrowski said the incident, as described by Lewis, did not happen.
Lewis countered by urging the councillor to release all correspondence he had received on the matter from the Region.

On Nov. 28, McMullan made his public entry into the dispute.
He (McMullan) copied to Lewis a letter he had sent to Burroughs. In turn, Lewis sent the letter to all those on his original circulation list.
McMullan wrote Burroughs to confirm the Region had sent a letter to Petrowksi regarding the alleged incident.

He also wanted to know whether the Region was providing the affected staff member "with the appropriate resources and assistance for their safety and well-being."

McMullan then chastised Burroughs for not providing regional councillors with information "on this issue."
"This particular matter isn't strictly a personnel matter," argued McMullan, because it involves a regional councillor as well as a member of regional staff.
The mayor and Petrowski have a long history of clashing. The resulting friction is evident in Petrowski's response to McMullan's letter.
"Your comments regarding the false accusations of an e-mailer who goes by the name of Tim Lewis are ludicrous. Interestingly, you put any stock in this anonymous individual. Do you know him?

"I find your suggestion that the chair share confidential employee information with you or anyone else very disturbing. You should know better. Are your municipal councillors aware of this lax attitude towards their private matters?"

McMullan stands by his intervention and rejects the notion he was acting on claims made by an unknown e-mailer. He said credible sources at the Region had confirmed accusations had been made against Petrowski.
Asked if he knows who Tim Lewis is, McMullan said: "Yes, I've learned who they are.
"There's more than one person, I believe. But I don't know who Tim Lewis is. I know some of the other people involved," said McMullan, without further elaboration.
Petrowski was initially reluctant to discuss the brewing tempest, but eventually warmed to the task.
He acknowledged receiving "internal correspondence" from the Region that raised two alleged incidents: he poked an employee hard enough to knock off her name tag and he was seen taking photos of a job site where regional employees were working.

He said the first described incident "is a complete exaggeration of anything close to fact" while the second one is a figment of someone's imagination.

He's demanding the letter sent to him by "the most senior of staff" at the Region be retracted.

Petrowski, who would not release the letter, said the message being delivered in it essentially had the Region saying: "We just want to make you are aware of this and make you aware of what our policies are with regard to this."

The way it was phrased, he charged, served "to inject some type of veracity" to the incidents.
Earlier this year, Burroughs sent a confidential memo to all regional councillors in which he expressed concern about councillors getting too involved in operational affairs.

Prior to the memo being written, Petrowski acknowledged he was involved in a couple of employee interactions that raised hackles at regional headquarters.

At the request of a few constituents, he said he approached seven people taking an "extra long" coffee break at a south St. Catharines McDonald's restaurant to confirm they were regional public health inspectors. He later arranged a meeting with their manager to express concerns about the length of the employees' breaks.
Around the same time, he said he chatted with workers on a road-patching crew near his home and, based on the information received, later took issue with a public works supervisor about how patching work was carried out by the Region.

At the time his memo was made public, Burroughs said the contained message wasn't aimed exclusively at Petrowksi.

But Petrowski believes the latest action taken against him by the Region is "payback" for the earlier incidents.

He claims his aggressive challenges to accepted regional practices and his unwillingness to rubber-stamp staff reports have made him enemies at regional headquarters.

"The Region wants to get rid of me, and I'm going to stand up to this. I will not back down from my principles. I'm not going to back down from being a self-appointed crusader for the taxpayer," he said.

McMullan dismisses the contention that Petrowski's stances on issues get the councillor in hot water.

He said it's "fair to say" regional staff and councillors are tired of Petrowski's "insolent and rude demeanour or deportment when it comes to dealing with regional staff."

"He is a bully, and I don't mind saying that."

A call to Burrough's office seeking the Region's side of the dispute was redirected to CAO Mike Trojan.

Trojan declined to discuss any aspect of the situation, including whether or not a letter was sent to Petrowski.

Generally speaking, he said, such correspondence and its contents would be considered a confidential labour relations matter.

Petrowski is also upset at what he calls a clear breach of confidentiality at the Region. He maintains the number of people who would have known a letter was sent to him is very small, yet somehow that information was leaked to e-mailer Lewis.

"The Region leaked it. I can say that. I didn't leak it, so the Region leaked it. That's not a good thing. It's a very serious issue."

He said he has asked the Region to investigate the identity of e-mailer Lewis. If he's not satisfied with the followup on the leak, he will explore "other avenues, including asking the police to get involved."

Trojan would not comment directly on Petrowski's accusation, adding, however, "we are always concerned if confidential information is shared beyond those intended to receive it."

"The other thing is, I would caution about whether they have the information and whether it's accurate."

Folks, we will report exactly the responses we receive from our politicians and our news outlets

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