HALIFAX - Regional council voted to ‘censure’ Councillor Matt Whitman during their meeting on Tuesday after dealing with complaints from the public in an over three-hour confidential session.
None of the details of the complaints from the in-camera session were released to the public but councillors voted to ratify their decisions publicly afterwards.
Councillors passed a motion finding Whitman violated Administrative Order 52, HRM’s code of conduct, while further censuring him and suspending him from committees for three months. Whitman will, however, retain his spot on the budget committee and committee of the whole.
Council further passed separate motions dismissing complaints against Councillor Shawn Cleary and Deputy Mayor Waye Mason, while Mason’s motion also included an apology.
Whitman refused to take part in the in-camera session dealing with the complaints after unsuccessfully lobbying to make them all public.
He put forward a motion to start the meeting seeking to make complaints against all councillors public, but without consent from all parties, Whitman’s motion was ruled ‘out-of-order.’
He was given the option to make only complaints against himself public but refused.
“I’m in favour of all of it, not half of it being done in-camera, but all of it being done in public,” Whitman said. “I’ve been very clear that I want all of this done in public...I won’t just go for one-third of the councillors being handled publicly and two privately.”
Metro News reported earlier this month there were 57 outstanding complaints against councillors this year, compared to 28 in all of 2017.
A large number were filed after a Twitter spat between Whitman and Mason over Whitman’s re-tweeting of an 'ethno-nationalist’ group.
Many councillors disagreed with the idea of making complaints public, including Timberlea - Beechville - Clayton Park - Wedgewood Councillor Richard Zurawski, who worried "about turning this into a circus."
"You don't air your dirty laundry in public," Fall River Councillor Steve Streatch said during the debate.
During the discussion, Mayor Mike Savage revealed outstanding complaints against three councillors: Whitman, Waye Mason and Shawn Cleary.
Whitman added there were complaints against other councillors he was aware of that were not present on Tuesday’s agenda and called that “concerning.”
Council approves municipal-wide police service review
Regional Council approved an HRM-wide review of police staffing within the municipality as put forward by Cole Harbour Councillor Lorelei Nicoll.
The approved motion on Tuesday means an expert will be commissioned to complete the review and bring a report and recommendation to council.
Councillor Nicoll said during the police budget presentation she saw issues within the system, including issues with backfill throughout both agencies.
“It’s a good checkpoint at this point and time to see exactly what the staffing needs are,” Nicoll said.
Councillor Steve Craig, Chair of the Board of Police Commissioners, agreed with the study to ensure the system is efficient and working properly, which right now he said relies solely on the budget.
He said as police costs continues to rise across the country, HRM needs to be able examine and understand its own cost and where weaknesses lie.
“This is important work. It’s timely work. Let’s get at it,” he said.
Councillor Whitman also supported the review because he said he wants to "be convinced we're getting the best policing for the model we have in place."
A report and recommendation will now come back to council and after that, it’s expected consultations would begin with the Board of Police Commissioners and the provincial Department of Justice.
Lake Banook pollution study
After a high number of beach closures on Lake Banook the last few summers, council voted on Tuesday to complete a pollution control study to find the source of the bacteria.
The study will cost the city roughly $150,000 out of HRM’s 2018-19 planning and development budget and will also include Lake Micmac.
Alcohol on Grafton and Argyle
Council passed a motion Tuesday allowing alcohol to be served on portions of Grafton and Argyle Streets during designated special events.
The changes to the Municipal Alcohol Policy were approved by councillors to allow alcohol on Argyle Street between Duke Street and Blowers Street and Grafton Street between Carmichael and Prince Streets during special events.
Dartmouth 4-pad naming rights
Council approved to move forward in the process to award the naming rights to the new Dartmouth 4-pad on Tuesday, approving a staff recommendation to award the rights to the highest scoring bid.
After the highest proponent is selected, a contract will be negotiated with the winner by Nustadia Recreation Inc., who have a 20-year deal with HRM to manage and operate the rink.