Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay, Ont., mayor 'walking a fine line' with reputation comments, police board chair says

The chair of the Thunder Bay Police Services Board is at odds with the city's mayor over comments made about Thunder Bay's national reputation.

Mayor Bill Mauro says Thunder Bay being unfairly scrutinized after 2018 police oversight reports

Thunder Bay Police Services Board chair Celina Reitberger said Tuesday that Mayor Bill Mauro needs to "tread carefully" when speaking about the city's national reputation, so he doesn't give the impression he's speaking on behalf of the police services board. (Cathy Alex/CBC)

The chair of the Thunder Bay Police Services Board is at odds with the city's mayor over comments made about Thunder Bay's national reputation.

Mayor Bill Mauro has repeatedly said he believes Thunder Bay is receiving undue scrutiny and negative attention, particularly in the wake of two reports that identified systemic racism in the Thunder Bay Police Service, and the Thunder Bay Police Services Board.

However, the comments aren't sitting well with board chair Celina Reitberger, who opened Tuesday morning's board meeting with a statement in which she said Mauro is "walking a fine line" and must "tread carefully" when making such comments.

"He's the mayor, but he's also on the police services board," Reitberger said in an interview after the meeting. "He has to be very careful when he speaks, that he does not speak on behalf of the police services board."

"I just wanted it clear that he was not speaking on behalf of the police services board."

Her statement came a week after Mauro held a town hall meeting during which he criticized the reports by Sen. Murray Sinclair and Ontario Independent Police Review Director Gerry McNeilly, both of which were released in December 2018.

Thunder Bay Mayor Bill Mauro spoke at a town hall meeting on May 15. He criticized two reports by Ontario police watchdogs issued in 2018. (Matt Prokopchuk / CBC)

"The two reports that came down ... didn't help the city of Thunder Bay in terms of its reputation," Mauro said at the meeting, which was held on May 15. "And I can tell you it drives me crazy having to listen to and fight back against the perception of our community that's being created on the national stage, not only because of, but largely because of those two reports."

In an interview after the town hall, Mauro told reporters he was trying to provide some balance.

"We acknowledged to everybody we've ever [talked] to that Thunder Bay has its challenges," he said. "I get criticized sometimes for looking like I'm pushing back too hard and not acknowledging the problem."

Board 'seriously considering' recommendations

On Tuesday, Reitberger said the Thunder Bay Police Services Board remains "dedicated to seriously considering" the recommendations made in the two reports, "and moving forward with them."

"We want to do what we can with the advice we've been given, and not just have it shelved somewhere because it makes people feel uncomfortable," she said. "We're moving forward, so let's stop looking back."

"We're about moving forward in a positive way."

When asked Tuesday if he'd be identifying himself as the mayor when making statements such as those made during last week's town hall meeting, Mauro said "when it's necessary, that's appropriate."

When asked if he had any further comment about Reitberger's statement, Mauro said "she needs to explain herself, not me."

With files from Matt Prokopchuk

now