Nova Scotia

Halifax councillor Matt Whitman barred from committees for 3 months

All but 3 councillors voted to censure the District 13 representative for breaching provisions of the code of conduct.

All but 3 councillors voted to censure District 13 rep for breaching provisions of code of conduct

Council voted Tuesday to ban Matt Whitman from committees for three months. (CBC)

Halifax regional council has removed Coun. Matt Whitman from all committees for three months for breaching provisions of the code of conduct.

On Tuesday, council was scheduled to discuss whether to make complaints about three councillors public. When it was decided the complaints would be discussed privately, Whitman — who said he thinks most of the complaints were about him — left the meeting.

"I just didn't feel like meeting privately about something which has been very public, very public accusations, public attacks, public pain and suffering for me and my family," said Whitman, the councillor for Hammonds Plains-St. Margarets.

Council has not revealed details of the complaints it reviewed, but Whitman has come under fire recently after retweeting a letter from a white nationalist group. He subsequently deleted the tweet and blocked the group.

Whitman was also criticized for using the word Negro during a television interview about marijuana in October.

Whitman said there were also complaints against Deputy Mayor Waye Mason and Coun. Shawn Cleary. He said Mason apologized in camera "so all his sins went away." The complaint against Cleary was dismissed.

Whitman is on the grants and the audit and finance committees. He said he'll get to stay on committee of the whole, North West community council and regional council.

All but three councillors voted to censure Whitman.

Ethics commissioner needed?

Mayor Mike Savage said prior incidents played a role in council's decision to censure Whitman, but he said it was also based on Whitman's release of details from private council discussions.

"There is frustration that we end up back here too often. Our job is still to deal with information that's private in private," said Savage. "This is the first time we've taken action like this."

Savage said he thinks  the idea of having an ethics commissioner should be revisited. He initially voted against the idea when it was brought up by Coun. Tony Mancini last year.

If he attended the in camera session and apologized, Whitman said he doesn't think he would have been barred from the committees.

"I refused to apologize because I want my apologies, when I give them, to mean something and be authentic and I can't apologize for something I don't think I did wrong," said Whitman.

"If I had attended the in camera session and apologized in camera, it would have gone away like it did for Waye Mason."

With files from Preston Mulligan and Pam Berman