Edmonton city councillor escapes public censure for breaking code of conduct

City councillor Mike Nickel avoided a formal rebuke Monday for his posts on social media that took aim at a fellow councillor and his staff member. 

Council's 8-3 vote not enough to censure Mike Nickel for social media posts

Mike Nickel was found violating Edmonton council's code of conduct in 2020 for his social media posts. (Craig Ryan/CBC)

City councillor Mike Nickel avoided a formal rebuke Monday for his posts on social media that took aim at a fellow councillor and his staff member. 

In June, Jamie Pytel, the City of Edmonton's integrity commissioner, found Nickel's posts and language violated council's code of conduct — a code councillors approved in 2018. 

Pytel received a complaint this May about Nickel's posts in April, in which he accused a staff in Coun. Andrew Knack's office of filing a complaint last year, costing taxpayers $50,000.

Nickel called it a "$50,000 + Stunt," and suggested Knack was responsible for the costs and asked if he directed his staff member to file a complaint. Knack said he did not. 

Monday, eight councillors voted to censure Nickel while three others voted against doing so — Jon Dziadyk, Tony Caterina, and Moe Banga.  Two councillors did not vote: Nickel and Michael Walters. 

The censure, in essence, is a public rebuke for Nickel's behaviour. 

Under the code, two-thirds of council are required to formally censure a council member, meaning nine votes were needed. 

Mayor Don Iveson had filed the complaint in May this year and expressed disappointment after Monday's vote. 

"I am troubled that a minority of council members effectively blocked accountability for problematic behaviour from a council member."

Iveson described it as bullying and called on council to call out the behaviour.

"It's concerning to me that council couldn't bring itself to hold this bullying behaviour to account, and I am concerned about the message this sends to City of Edmonton employees, as well as people running to join city council."

Caterina took issue with the mayor and other councillors suggesting that those who voted against the formal censure don't care about the city's thousands of employees. 

"The framing of this should be investigated by the integrity commissioner — somebody should file a complaint about that: labelling 'no voters,' as being somehow sanctioning or condoning Coun. Nickel's actions," Caterina said. 

"I think it's been well established that nobody condones it but whether the severity of the sanction being called for is warranted or not." 

Nickel's lawyer Jonathan Denis spoke to council earlier, arguing that the integrity commissioner doesn't have the jurisdiction to investigate such complaints. 

Last year, Pytel found Nickel violated the code of conduct when he posted demeaning messages about Knack and bike lanes. 

Pytel said she found the posts "disrespectful, lacking in decorum and a personal attack" on Coun. Andrew Knack. 

Ten people filed complaints against Nickel for the posts. 

At that time, council failed to support giving Nickel a formal sanction. 

Pytel said she found that Nickel's April 12 and 13, 2021 social media posts were deliberate and intentional violations of the code.

"He flaunts the requirements of the code, which he and the rest of council agreed to be bound by when they unanimously passed the code of conduct in June of 2018."


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