Sunday, April 13, 2014

How much can a Koala – Bear

In Australia, when someone reaches a level of exasperation, when enough is enough, the locals have a flippant throwaway line to ease the tension. That little Aussie phrase is, “how much can a Koala – bear?” One might see the relevancy of such a simple phrase in the continuing saga between a Regional Councillor and the Mayor of St. Catharines.

How it all began or why is no longer possible to trace. On the one side is Regional Councillor Andy Petrowski. Andy is not a shy shrinking violet. You either like him or not, few stand in between. At times Andy can be loud and animated, he is less concerned with political etiquette and more interested in getting his point across. This attribute has created enemies for Andy.

On the other side is St. Catharines Mayor Brian McMullan, a two term mayor and a political tactician. Brian McMullan does not exude warmth in his personality, at least not his public personality. He is well versed in the art of creating alliances and the old fashioned barter system of you do for me and I for you.

In the middle of these two very polarised individuals is a public fist fight. Some would say that such antics should not be permitted to be turned into a spectacle which diminishes government and its very public face. If this was simple mud slinging between two individuals who quite clearly have little liking for each other, then there would be little to comment. Yet the situation had progressed much beyond that of childish insult or flying barbs.

As it has been already stated Andy Petrowski is far from a shy child and although he has enough political enemies, in 2012 he found himself the target of accusations made publicly through a online commentary. Individuals using fictitious names, one being Tim Lewis, decided to damage Petrowski's public image. This situation reached a point where even a false police report had been made. Making a false report to the police is breach of the Criminal Code with severe penalties.

Mayor Brian McMullan in an interview with Doug Herod of The Standard admitted to knowing the identity of the individuals behind the fictitious names. That in itself makes Brian McMullan party to the breach of the Criminal Code. After this insanity subsided, things seemed to calm down somewhat. Then in August 2013, the front page of The Standard proclaims “St. Catharines mayor calls police on councillor.”

At the time reporter Jeff Bolichowski wrote on August 27th 2013, “Mayor Brian McMullan says he called the police on St. Catharines Coun. Andy Petrowski Saturday over an alleged confrontation at Camp Wetaskiwin, a Boy Scouts camp near Short Hills Provincial Park.” It was an attention grabbing front page and although reporter Bolichowski did give Andy Petrowski equal opportunity to make his statements, the front page still was etched in people's minds.

The whole incident appeared to be nothing more than a he said, she said public fight once again. Yet it did not end there. A police incident report was filed by Brian McMullan. The report with NRP reference #2013-75533 stated: “The compl. Is the Mayor of St. Catharines and a member of Niagara Regional Council. On this date in the early morning Mayor McMullan attended Camp Wetaskiwin in Thorold to address a group in an official capacity. At approximately 9:30 am. while leaving the facility McMullan suddenly saw councillor Petrowski in his car in the parking lot. McMullan was close to his vehicle at the time and as he prepared to quickly leave he saw Petrowski striding intently toward him in an agitated state. McMullan left without engaging Petrowski. Although no incident occurred that necessitated police involvement, the complainant requested documentation.”

In this situation the police saw no reason to be involved. Yet the Standard had this as a front page story. How did The Standard get the information? Brian McMullan called the police by phone, does The Standard wire tap the police phones? If the hot shot reporters at The Standard monitor police radio then they could claim to have got wind of a front page story, but the police did not dispatch a patrol car. Then did Brian McMullan call his pals at The Standard and give them all the juicy details, or someone on his behalf? Maybe it was Tim Lewis who tipped off the guardians of news and facts?

On December 17th 2013, things became more clear. Andy Petrowski was served with a Summons To Appear in court. The summons stated: “Whereas an information has been laid against you by Brian McMullan who says therein that he/she has reasonable grounds to fear and does fear that you will cause personal injury to or will damage the property of Brian McMullan.”

Now Mayor Brian McMullan had gone from filing an official complaint to the police in late August, to filling a document with the courts claiming he feared for his safety. The summons further states: “in the words or to the effect following, that is to say. Andy Petrowski, in a stalking manner, approached Brian McMullan in a aggressive, bizarre manner and confronted him by saying “there you are.” The loud and belligerent approach and their previous antecedents caused Brian McMullan to fear for his safety.”

In the police incident report #2013-75533 there is no claim of any verbal engagement. The police saw no reason to get involved. Yet nearly four months later Brian McMullan claimed to fear for his safety and that of his property. Maybe McMullan was concerned about cans of spray paint? Regardless of whether one asks serious questions as to motive or reasoning, this was an official filing with the Ontario Court of Justice.

Along came January 24th 2014, Andy Petrowski's birthday and his appearance at courtroom 7 to answer charges laid by Mayor Brian McMullan. Andy Petrowski had no flippancy in mind and took this quite seriously. He retained the services of lawyer G. Radojcic, a man known for his spunk. Brian McMullan had one too, M. DelGobbo at the ready. Counsel for the Crown, T. Jacob was also present. Here the stage was set and under oath, with the threat of perjury, all the truth and nothing but the truth would be extracted.

After examining the transcript of proceedings with Information No. 145-0178, Ontario Court of Justice Her Majesty The Queen v. Andy Petrowski, only shock remains. The obligatory identification of bodies was first conducted, Andy Petrowski and his lawyer were there, Brian McMullan was nowhere in sight only his representative at law DelGobbo. Where was Brian McMullan, after all it was he who made the serious accusations that he feared Andy Petrowski. Would he not have to give testimony under oath? In any case Mayor Brian McMullan did not appear, maybe he was savouring a soothing cup of Chinese tea somewhere.

Once the identification process was completed, and everybody was familiar with each other, Brian McMullan's counsel had this to say: “After reviewing the matter with the complainant and obtaining instructions from him, and considering the overall circumstances, and I've advised Mr. Jacob of our – the complainant's position, he does not wish to proceed further with the, with the application.” The judge responds with an okay, and DelGobbo continues, “and wishes to discontinue it and thanks the court for its time on the...” Again the judge drops an okay, DelGobbo finishes with, “day in question.” Counsel for the Crown, Jacob doesn't want to touch anything. The judge then responds: Yeah, I think that that would be the appropriate endorsement to be made on the face of the information then. The application is withdrawn at the request of the applicant.”

Brian McMullan had made a sworn statement that he feared Andy Petrowski and that he feared for his safety. He dragged the Provincial Court and had Her Majesty The Queen go versus Andy Petrowski on court record. He forced Andy Petrowski to retain a lawyer with spunk, which could not of been cheap. He himself did not bother to make an appearance, even though everybody else was there because of his accusations. What was all of this really about?

The judge's words ring loud and clear, “...the appropriate endorsement to be made on the face of the information then.” Right at the beginning of the identification process DelGobbo ensures that the judge and everyone present hear who McMullan is when DelGobbo says, “Your Honour, Mr. McMullan is the complainant. He is the mayor of the City of St. Catharines.” Outside the courthouse a witness saw one of The Standard's hot shot reporters, Grant LaFleche talking to DelGobbo. There it would of been interesting to hear what was said.

No front page headlines of the Mayor of the City of St. Catharines dropping his charges, wasting public money and the court's time. No explanation on how he no longer felt fear for his safety. No explanation by Brian McMullan. What was his true motivation about this whole incident? Was Brian McMullan looking for another damaging front page against Councillor Petrowski? Who provided The Standard with the original story about the police being called? Now, why didn't Grant LaFleche or Doug Herod or even Marlene Bergsma report how McMullan withdrew his complaint?

DelGobbo said to the judge, “After reviewing the matter with the complainant and obtaining instructions from him, and considering the overall circumstances...”. Indeed considering the overall circumstances from start to finish of this situation, from the police being called, the front page of the newspaper, to the anti-climatic fizzle in front of a judge, only questions remain in the air, and a foul smell.

One might ask why bring this whole story out now as the court date was January 24th? Andy Petrowski was indeed asked this question, his response came via email and he said; “I am not interested in exposing this out of any sort of vengeance, it's a principle sort of thing to make sure McMullan needs to know his deeds will not go unknown or unspoken so as to protect others from his near evil ways. I hope that makes sense.”

Mayor Brian McMullan was approached by email to provide his side to all of this, to maybe provide his explanation. No response had been received at time of publishing.

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