Nfld. & Labrador

Andy Wells threatens lawsuit against St. John's council, channels inner Trump

Former Mayor Andy Wells is threatening to sue the St. John's City Council, and alleges the council has been breaking one of its own bylaws.

Wells alleges bylaw breaches taking place in city council

After Monday night's meeting Wells told reports he's looking into legal action against city council. 3:29

Andy Wells has hired a lawyer and is "seriously looking" to prepare a lawsuit against the St. John's City council, the former mayor has told reporters.

Wells alleged Monday evening that council members and administration officials had "deliberately or ignorantly" broken city bylaws which prohibited voting on salary or financial matters in private meetings.

The former mayor alleged salaries for some city officials have increased by thousands of dollars in the past six years, and said he believes the raises were illegal.

Wells alleges that city council members have been breaking one of their own bylaws. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

Wells referred to the city's Freedom of Information Bylaw, which he helped draft as a mayor, and a section in the province's City of St. John's Act. At one point, he also said he was relying on information that had not yet been publicly released.

"So I've got a lawyer retained, and I'm seriously looking at taking this council to court," Wells told reporters. "I think a lot of these expenditures that they've made over the past few years are illegal.

"You've got a council that's been profligate, wasteful, irresponsible and certainly immoral and possibly illegal." 

Channeling Donald Trump

The City of St. John's act provides for penalties against city officials who fail to comply with bylaw requirements.

But Wells channeled U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, and provocatively told reporters what penalty he wanted for city councillors and staff.

Former mayor Andy Wells is threatening a lawsuit against the St. John's city council. (Jeremy Eaton/CBC)

"I prefer to lock 'em up, that would be my option, with all this crowd if they're are found guilty."

The City's Freedom of Information bylaw was recently amended, but previously has prohibited decisions on financial benefits for councillors and staff at private meetings.

Operational spending in the St. John's municipal budget has grown from about $220 million to $290 million between 2012 and 2016.

Wells said spending at the city has gone too far, and claimed that many people in St. John's were "facing a crisis" because of municipal taxes. 

"It was a big deal in the last U.S. election to 'drain the swamp,' I think we've got a swamp here that we need to drain," he said.

"These people have been dining out on the taxpayers for the past six years. The taxpayers have been on the menu, and the menu is very expensive."

Mayor Dennis O'Keefe could not be immediately reached for comment. Jonathan Galgay, the city's finance chair, declined an interview, writing in a message that he had "better things to focus on then comments made by Andy Wells."

With files from Jeremy Eaton