08/11/2016 13:56 EDT | Updated 08/12/2017 01:12 EDT

Code of conduct for Nova Scotia municipal councils under consideration:minister

HALIFAX — A town councillor's racial slur has prompted the Nova Scotia government to consider a uniform code of conduct for municipal councils across the province.

Municipal Affairs Minister Zach Churchill said Thursday the move is in direct response to a recent incident involving an Amherst town councillor who admitted using a racial slur in a verbal exchange with staff at a local pizza shop.

"The Amherst council indicated that they did not feel from a legal perspective they had an ability to act in a way that they felt was appropriate related to the actions of this councillor," said Churchill.

He said while some councils do have codes of conduct, they are not mandated through the Municipal Government Act or through provincial regulation.

"That is something in light of the situation that we're contemplating as we review the Municipal Government Act and bring changes forward in 2017."

Churchill said a possible model is the current policy governing harassment in the provincial legislature. The rules adopted in May address such issues as training, what to do about complaints and where to address them.

Amherst council discussed the issue, involving Coun. George Baker, at an emergency meeting on Monday and determined that it didn't have the authority to deal with allegations of misconduct by council members.

Council directed staff to revise its code of conduct so it does have such power, and referred the matter to the Amherst Board of Police Commissioners, of which Baker is a member, and which has a different code of conduct than council.

Mayor Robert Small said Baker has admitted to saying "I'm not your n-----r" to workers at Bambino's Pizzeria.

"Whoever it was that was working, they were giving him a hard time, razzing him ... and he turned around and made his comment. From there it escalated," said Small.

The mayor said Baker had apologized to staff at the pizzeria and to the black community.

Baker has not responded to requests for comment.