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DATE: November 21, 2013
REPORT TO: Regional Council
FROM: Interim Integrity Commissioner
SUBJECT: Report on Investigation of Complaints received
from staff against Councillor Andrew Petrowski

That the Report of the Interim Integrity Commissioner dated November 21, 2013
on his findings from conducting an investigation of two complaints alleging
violations of the Code of Conduct by Councillor Andrew Petrwoski, be received.

The purpose is to report to Council on my findings from two investigations I
carried out as Integrity Commissioner, arising out of a complaint received from
four staff members of Niagara Regional Housing ("NRH) and another from a
director level employee of Regional Public Health, (the "Director) both against
Councillor Andrew Petrowski.

Council at its meeting of August 1, 2013 directed me to review the Code of
Conduct for Members of Council (the "Code). I reported to its meeting of
September 19, 2013 and recommended certain changes to the Code which were
adopted. One of those changes removed the applicability of the Respectful
Workplace Conduct Policy and added specific sections to the Code relating to
the behaviour of members of Council. Bill 91 of the Region authorizes me to
carry out investigations of complaints alleging that the Code was contravened
and I received a summary of two such complaints. The summary referred to
source documents and the Regional Solicitor assisted by identifying and
forwarding the source documents to me. I served Councillor Petrowski with the
summary and later the source documents, giving him 10 days to respond each
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time. I received a written response from him which I served on the
Complainants. For the purpose of this report I individually interviewed eight
persons, six personally and two by telephone.

The first complaint was from three members of NRH front line staff responsible
for administering assisted senior housing units. It was filed on their behalf by
their manager. The complaint alleged that Councillor Petrowski berated and
embarrassed the staff at a case conference meeting held on July 23, 2013. The
purpose of the meeting was to bring together all of the supporting agencies and
discuss solutions for a hard-to-serve tenant who was severely handicapped.
Attending the meeting were representatives of Community Care Access Centre,
Senior Services, an Adult Protection Worker from Family and Children Services
Niagara, the March of Dimes, a Niagara Health Systems Dialysis Nurse and the
three Complainants. Also in attendance were the tenant, the tenant advocate
and Councillor Petrowski, who was invited to the meeting by the tenant advocate
with no notice to regional staff. The Programs Coordinator, one of the
Complainants, who normally chairs meetings of this kind was surprised by the
Councillor's aggressive behaviour and let him take over the meeting. She had
never before faced a member of Regional Council in her job and was unsure of
his authority. The Councillor was confused about the purpose of the meeting and
thought that it was to evict the tenant. The discussion of solutions for the tenant
by the agencies was repeatedly diverted by the Councillor arguing against
eviction which was not on the agenda. He also received telephone calls during
the meeting causing further disruptions. Discussions took place on possible
renovations to the unit occupied by the tenant or moving him elsewhere and
Councillor Petrowski advised the meeting that cost should be ignored because
the Region had "pots of money. Each of the three Complainants told me
individually in our interview that they felt personally criticized and bullied by the
Councillor in the questions he asked and his antagonistic behaviour.
The response from Councillor Petrowski to the above allegations in our interview
was to deny that he displayed any aggression or disruptive influence at the
meeting and that it is his responsibility to advocate on behalf of all of his
constituents. He believed that the handicapped tenant was not being properly
served by NRH and his only desire was to help him. He did not feel that he had
any conflict as a member of Regional Council attending an operational meeting
with front line staff.
The second complaint related to an incident following adjournment of a meeting
of the Budget Committee on June 24, 2013 and it alleged that Councillor
Petrowski accosted the Director outside Committee Room 4 in an agitated state
and spoke to her in a loud and severe tone. There were several Councillors and
staff in the immediate area during this confrontation including Mr. Ken Brothers,
interim CAO at the time. Mr. Brothers intervened and ask the Director to leave
the area saying he would handle the situation. As she left the area, Councillor
Petrowski continued to yell at her in the hallway saying that he would be
discussing her work on his radio show. I interviewed Mr. Brothers by telephone
and he confirmed the Director's testimony in total and added that the Councillor
"completely lost it.
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Again, the response in the interview from Councillor Petrowski to the above
allegations was to deny that he was agitated or spoke in a loud voice at any time
during the discussion in the hall.
I interviewed the Complainants from NRH on October 24, 2013. I questioned the
four NRH staff firstly as a panel and then each of them individually. On the same
day, I interviewed the Director on the second complaint and Mr. Brothers in a
later telephone conversation.
In an E-mail to me on November 5, 2013, Councillor Petrowski requested
permission to bring legal counsel to our interview to which I consented. He turned
up with the blogger, Mr. Preston Haskell, who is not a lawyer but the Councillor
said he was needed as his adviser. I again consented. The NRH staff
interviewed by me had told me how upsetting one of Mr. Haskell's blogs was
when he disclosed their complaint, confidential at the time of the blog and
referred to it as "false harassment charges.
My interview of Councillor Petrowski on November 15, 2013 lasted for two hours.
During that time nothing positive was said by him about any member of staff or
Council. He advised me that the sole purpose in Council appointing an Integrity
Commissioner was to "get me (him). He agreed that he is a maverick on
Council but "a maverick for the taxpayer. Without exception, he was critical of
how the Region was run and appeared to be happy about the recent loss of
senior staff. I asked him what he has accomplished as a member of Council and
he cited some examples, all of which were prefaced by the words: " put an end
At the beginning of the meeting Councillor Petrowski asked me to permit him to
make an opening statement which I allowed and it lasted for the first hour. I was
only able to ask my first question in the second hour. He dominated the first hour
and whenever I tried to interject, he objected in a loud voice to being interrupted.
In the second hour he also raised his voice interrupting me on several occasions.
In one of his outbursts, I warned him that he was not helping his case, but It
seemed that the irony was lost on him. Here he was aggressively dominating a
meeting with the Integrity Commissioner who was investigating an allegation of
aggressive behaviour by him, while asking me at the same time, to believe that
he did not do the same thing in the confrontations the staff complained about.
At the interview, Councillor Petrowski advised me that he wanted me to interview
by telephone four of the attendees at the NRH meeting who did not give
evidence and he wanted to explore with me apologizing to the Director in the
second complaint. I indicated to him that he had his chance to introduce new
witnesses and I intended to file my report for the November 21 Council meeting
because I was away for the next meeting in December. I also explained to him
that he had adequate notice of the case against him with two opportunities to file
additional material. However, I encouraged him to apologize and gave him until
Monday, November 18 to file the material and later set the deadline for 4:30 pm.
At 4:23 pm on Monday I received an E-mail from him giving me the phone
numbers for the tenant and two people described as neighbour/helpers. He also
gave me the phone number of the representative of Family and Children
Services Niagara who attended the meeting and requested I call her. I
telephoned all four numbers on Tuesday, November 19 at 9:00 am and was able
to leave a detailed voice mail for three of them. The fourth was the tenant whom
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I called and finally reached him on Wednesday morning. The tenant confirmed
that he is very appreciative of the Councillor's help and told me that "he didn't
speak out of turn in the meeting. He did not feel that the Councillor disrupted
the meeting and was only trying to help him. As of 9:00 am on Wednesday I
have not received any response to my three voice mails and have decided to file
my report.
Councillor Petrowski's E-mail also contained a qualified apology to the
Complainants as follows:
"I now believe that in the interests of common courtesy and following
Region protocol, I should have notified Niagara Region Housing Staff of
my intention to attend the subject meeting. Notwithstanding I firmly believe
it is my elected duty to be able to represent my constituents, I sincerely
apologize to all three regional housing employees for any confusion my
appearance at that meeting may have created.
More importantly, I sincerely apologize to {the Director} for engaging her
after the Audit Committee meeting which I now believe was an
inappropriate time to do so. Notwithstanding I believe it is my elected duty
to represent taxpayers and be a responsible steward of their finances, I
now believe that my passion to act on their behalf came across in an
austere and abrasive manner and I personally wish to apologize sincerely
to {the Director} for that.
I find this apology helpful to me, particularly the one to the Director, in that, for
the first time he acknowledges that his behaviour is austere and abrasive. This
gives me hope that after being exposed to two formal complaints, he will curb his
aggressive behaviour in the future.

I believe the testimony of the six staff members I interviewed and I do not believe
the testimony of Councillor Petrowski in his interview. I find that the Councillor
did not have a conflict as a Regional Councillor attending the meeting with NRH
staff and other agencies but his conduct at the meeting was unprofessional. I
believe that it amounted to bullying and intimidation and would be clearly contrary
to the current Code. It was also contrary to the spirit of the Code in effect at the
time of the incidents complained about. I also find that his confrontation of the
Public Health Director was abusive and insulting and also contrary to the Code
which requires that members of Council treat all persons, "appropriately and
without abuse, bullying or intimidation and to ensure that the municipal workplace
is free from . . . harassment. It is my decision that Councillor Petrowski has
contravened the Code as alleged in both complaints.
I have decided not to impose any sanction against Councillor Petrowski at this
time. However, I believe him to be incorrigible in his aggressive behaviour as a
member of Council. He needs a stern warning to rein him in and make it clear
that he has no executive authority over staff as a single member of Council. If I
receive a valid complaint or complaints after the date of this report, from any
member of staff about his conduct as a Councillor, which I deem to be contrary to
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the Code, I will suspend his salary for a period, determined by me, based on the
severity of the offence, for up to 90 days for each such contravention. I may also
recommend that all Regional Staff below the level of manager be instructed to
refer all direct inquiries from the Councillor to their manager or above.

Submitted by:

Robert Swayze
Interim Integrity Commissioner