Botha apologizes for social media comments, but former mayor says council went too far

Coun. Evert Botha aplogizes during an August council meeting for comments he made on social media during a Prince Albert Raiders Game (Jason Kerr/Daily Herald)

Ward 3 Coun. Evert Botha has officially apologized for a pair of social media comments that led to council stripping him of his role on all city boards and committees and banning him from speaking as a council representative at public events.

However, one former Prince Albert mayor has come out and said the punishment doesn’t fit the crime.

On Tuesday, Botha formally offered an apology to Prince Albert residents, city council and the Prince Albert Raiders hockey club for posts made about the music played during a Raider home game. Former Mayor Gordon Kirkby, who held the city’s top job from 1988 to 1993, called council’s decision “harsh” and “politically motivated.”

“I think it’s arbitrary, I think it’s excessive and I’m not even sure it’s legal,” Kirkby said in an interview following Tuesday’s council meeting. “Coun. Botha happens to be in the minority on a number of issues and now they’ve kind of quieted him down. It’s precedent setting and it’s troubling.”

Kirkby added that he didn’t like Botha’s two social media posts and thinks council was right to call for an apology. However, he said the other punishments, banning Botha from sitting on boards or speaking as a city representative for a year were “harsh” and set a troubling benchmark.

“If all politicians across this country were held to the same standard (as Botha) nobody would be allowed to say anything,” he said.

Kirkby added that council should stop wasting time on the issue and turn their focus on other problems plaguing Prince Albert, like addictions, mental health issues and gun violence.

“There should be some more thought about those other more serious and pertinent issues, rather than fooling around with this,” he continued. “Maybe we should apply the code of conduct to those who aren’t dealing with serious issues.”

Current Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne dismissed Kirkby’s comments as “not a big deal,” and said he wasn’t going to get drawn into a debate. Following Tuesday’s meeting, Dionne said he considers the matter closed, and he reiterated that stance again on Thursday.

“It’s not politically motivated,” he said. “He (Botha) made a mistake. He corrected it and we moved on, so I’m not going to get into the conversation.”

Dionne added that the city had the legal right to dole out the punishment they did. He also pointed out that they hadn’t been challenged over the decision in court.

Kirkby said he doubts anyone will challenge the decision due to the cost of taking the city to court.

Coun. Botha has been largely quiet on the issue since council found him in violation of Prince Albert’s ethics bylaw in May. He declined to answer questions about the apology and punishment following Tuesday’s meeting.

“What I said is what I said. It’s been a drawn out process. I’m relieved that this part of it is over and, as I said, I really just want to focus on moving on,” he explained.

Botha was apologizing for two tweets in which he criticized the music selection at a Raider game. The first read, “Sweet Caroline? This DJ needs to get laid.” The second read, “Who plays soppy horse music at a hockey game. #GetADJ!”