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Divided council rebukes one of its own


Four Rochester City Council members voted Monday to censure one of their fellow members.

"I think of it more in terms of a public rebuke," said Council President Randy Staver as he started discussion of Ethical Practices Board findings , which state council member Michael Wojcik acted improperly when repeatedly asking for an early draft of a master plan for public art.

Staver said the council had three options: expulsion, censure or dismissal.

Council member Nick Campion, however, said he saw other options, including the one he took after receiving the board's findings. He said he spoke personally with Wojcik about his concerns and didn't see a need for public action.

"The reality is this is the beginning of a descent into a food fight between people who don't agree," he said.


The ethics complaint was filed Feb. 17 by Greater Rochester Arts and Cultural Trust CEO Bari Amadio, who alleged Wojcik used his status in an attempt to intimidate her into turning over a copy of a plan for public art, which was completed with a $15,000 city contribution and matching private donations.

While some allegations in the complaint didn't make it into the findings, the Ethical Practices Board determined Wojcik's continued request for the document demonstrated a lack of cooperation, which is required under the city's code of ethics.

Additionally, the board agreed his actions were an attempt to use his position to secure special privileges.

Council member Mark Bilderback touched on the issue when he cited concern about the fact that Wojcik used an email signature block that identified him as a council member when communicating with Amadio, which could be interpreted as an official action.

Wojcik, however, has repeatedly noted that no single council member can take official action, since a council vote is required for any official action.

In his argument against censure, Campion pointed to the "cooperation" language, noting it appears vague and could entangle other council members who take actions contrary to staff members advice.

"Maybe we found a technicality in the code of ethics that we need to address," he said.

Bilderback acknowledged a concern that the censure would open the doors for future complaints.


"This is probably going to unfortunately, depending on where this all falls, start a rush of letters to the city attorney to have us all brought up on different ethics charges, and that makes me sick," he said.

Two other council members have been censured in the last quarter century.

Paul Myhrom was censured by the council in 1994 for telling Council President John Hunziker to "kiss my ass" during a TV show on the cable public-access channel.

In 2007, Pat Carr was censured by his fellow council members for what was seen as an offensive and sexually charged comment to a city employee.

In supporting the call for censure Monday, Staver said the findings against Wojcik show a violation of city ordinance, which needs to be addressed.

"We as an elected body need to hold ourselves to a higher standard," he said.

Council member Mark Hickey ultimately made the official proposal to issue a public reprimand against Wojcik, which carries no penalty. It was supported by council member Ed Hruska, followed by Staver and Bilderback.

Following Monday's council meeting, Wojcik called the action "politics at its finest," echoing earlier discussion about potential repercussions if the ethics code language and actions used against him remain in place.


Campion asked the council to plan a review of the code and related practices during a future meeting, and members agreed to look at the process in November.

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