Edmonton councillor broke code of conduct, integrity commissioner finds

·3 min read
City Coun. Michael Janz says he undid the retweet shortly after he realized it contained the derogatory word. (Trevor Wilson/CBC - image credit)
City Coun. Michael Janz says he undid the retweet shortly after he realized it contained the derogatory word. (Trevor Wilson/CBC - image credit)

Coun. Michael Janz broke council's code of conduct when he shared a social media post that contained a derogatory term for police, Edmonton's integrity commissioner has found.

In a report made public Thursday, Jamie Pytel said retweeting a post with the word "pig" violated the code in areas that guide communications on social media and respectful interactions.

"There is no question that the existence of the derogatory word in the retweet was a violation of the code of conduct," Pytel concluded.

Councillors must not use any "harassing, offensive, discriminatory, disrespectful, or unparliamentary language" about council, councillors, city employees, councillor employees or the public, according to the code.

The original tweet was a remark on the discrepancies in fine amounts for motor vehicles and cyclists.

Janz admits the language is inappropriate.

"Elected officials should not use derogatory language, of course I agree with that," Janz said in an interview with CBC News Thursday.

"I would never use that language in chambers. I would never write those words myself."

Janz said he removed the post after he realized what it contained.

Complaints and apology

In the report, Pytel outlines the seven complaints she received after Janz retweeted the post. None of the complainants are named in the report.

"I find the fact that Mr. Janz is using his status as a city councillor on his official twitter platform to use such unparliamentary language to describe city employees as disgraceful," one wrote.

"I am not sure to be honest, but a city councillor should not be allowed to express such unprofessional and insulting language," said another.

"Mr. Janz has an open agenda of hate towards the Edmonton Police Service. This is clearly evident throughout his posts on twitter," reads a third.

Janz later apologized in a tweet on June 28.

Coun. Tim Cartmell said he believes the situation merited an investigation, in part because of how it reflects council as a whole.

"Council doesn't work in isolation," he said. "It has to have functional, respectful working relationships with a number of external parties."

Cartmell also suggested in a Thursday interview that it "has the potential of comprising or further compromising" council's relationship with police.

He said councillors need to be extra careful when it comes to relationships with agencies, boards, committees, or the public.

"Offering provocative public commentary on social media channels without context runs a risk ... of compromising all of those relationships," he said.

"And it should be done very carefully."

Purpose of the code

Investigating code of conduct complaints costs money, Janz noted. He questioned the use of the code to scrutinize social media posts.

"I think the code of conduct was created to deal with issues of material corruption or nepotism or issues where actually, you know, there's financial impropriety or criminal behaviour," Janz said.

"I, for one, don't want to see a code of conduct that is being weaponized to try and silence councillors or try and restrict freedom of speech or anything like that."

Council is scheduled to discuss the findings at a sanction hearing on Aug. 15, where council can decide whether Janz should receive formal sanctions for breaking the code.

Council has several options for sanctions.

It could order the councillor receive a letter of reprimand, require the councillor to issue a letter of apology or require specified training;

Council could also cut or suspend a colleague's salary but it cannot impose a sanction that prevents the councillor from fulfilling their legislated duties.

Pytel did not recommend sanction or further action, calling the June apology an appropriate resolution to the complaints.

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