News / Halifax

Complaints filed to Halifax City Hall after councillor's controversial comment

Coun. Matt Whitman has been lambasted on social media and elsewhere since he used the word “negro” during an interview with CTV Atlantic last week.

Coun. Matt Whitman in council chambers last year.

Jeff Harper / Metro Order this photo

Coun. Matt Whitman in council chambers last year.

It’s not on the agenda – at least not yet – but it's sure to be what everyone's talking about at Halifax regional council on Tuesday.

Coun. Matt Whitman has been lambasted on social media and elsewhere since he used the word “negro” during an interview with CTV Atlantic last week.

On Monday, municipal spokesperson Nick Ritcey said there have been four “recent, outstanding councillor conduct complaints” filed with the clerk’s office, but he couldn’t say which councillor was the subject of the complaints, or even whether all the complaints were about the same councillor.

When asked if he was aware of any complaints, Whitman said, “I’m not gonna comment on that.” He also declined to comment on the reaction to his comment.

Ritcey said the complaints fall under the municipality’s Code of Conduct for Elected Municipal Officials, Administrative Order 52.

That code establishes “guidelines for the ethical and interpersonal conduct” of councillors. The penalties for breaching the code are: “censure of the (councillor), an apology to those affected by the breach, counselling, and withdrawal of appointment from any committee of Council.”

The matter will be dealt with in a future in camera session of regional council, but Ritcey wasn’t sure whether that would happen on Tuesday.

“It’s a possibility,” he said.

If these complaints are about Whitman, it will be a process he’s been through before: he was forced to apologize for a tweet last year after two complaints and a three-hour in camera session.

Through spokesperson Shaune MacKinlay, Mayor Mike Savage turned down an interview request from Metro on Monday, and offered a statement used in other media: “As elected officials we need to understand the impact of our words. It's about respect for the diverse population we represent.”

“He does, of course, realize that you all may have questions for him tomorrow outside Council,” MacKinlay wrote.

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