in City Council, City Hall

In Regards to Councillor Lloyd Ferguson’s Use of Physical Force Against Myself

Tonight, City Council met in closed session for over two hours and emerged to take a divisive 9-to-7 vote on the Ticats’ lease in the new football stadium.

It was a tense and heated debate. When it was over, I was heading to a news conference on the Ticats lease when Councillor Lloyd Ferguson physically grabbed me and shoved me because he wished to speak to a person I was standing near.

The following is what happened.

The Incident

At approximately 10:45pm Wednesday evening, I was following the City’s Corporate Communications Manager to a press conference.

The conference was originally scheduled for a meeting room in the City Councillors area and was being moved into the City Manager’s Boardroom, a non-public area.

I had to follow the Manager to get into this Boardroom.

The Manager was stopped by Ward 9 Councillor Brad Clark. The two began a conversation.

I stepped back and was standing approximately three metres from their conversation, holding my tripod – with camera attached – over my right shoulder.

Behind me, from the Councillors offices, a visibly agitated Councillor Lloyd Ferguson walked in front of me saying – to either the Manager or Councillor Clark – “I need to talk to you about something”.

Immediately, Ferguson looked at me and aggressively told me to get away from the area.

Before I had a chance to move, Ferguson turned around, strongly clenched my upper right arm and shoved me with force.

He did not let go of his grip, continuing to clench me and strengthening his grip as he very angrily stated with a threatening tone that I wasn’t welcome to stand where I had been, stating further that he didn’t want me eavesdropping upon his conversation, looking at my camera.

The camera was turned off, the shutter was closed, and I was only carrying it because I was moving locations for a press conference.

I quickly regained my footing, my composure, and stood my ground.

I told him to not touch me, that he had no right to use force against me, and we exchanged heated words.

Councillors Clark intervened, and as Councillor Ferguson left the building, I stated very clearly to him that I didn’t have to take his “shit”. That was the strongest language I used during the exchange.

Earlier in the Evening

Earlier in the evening, during the Council meeting, Councillor Ferguson came to me angry about a tweet I had made about the Governance Committee choosing to meet at the same as another major committee; preventing the meeting from being streamed.

I referenced that the Governance Committee inherited the responsibilities of the disbanded Accountability and Transparency Committee.

Ferguson was angry about the reference to accountability and transparency, demanding that I stop referencing the committee now that it is disbanded. I told him I stand by the tweet and that it is accurate.

The argument ended when the Deputy Mayor had to stop the Council meeting and request Ferguson return to his seat.

Ferguson has expressed numerous times his frustration at my “targeting” the Accountability and Transparency Committee to make its agendas public.

These conversations have become heated on numerous occasions and I’ve stood my behind my position that all City Council committees and sub-committees should be both accountable and transparent to the public.

I felt Councillor Ferguson’s demeanour in these conversations was intimidating in the past, but no more so that what is usual for the culture of City Hall.

Today’s use of physical force by Councillor Ferguson is unacceptable.

Next Step: Councillor Ferguson

I hope to be able to accept a public apology, properly given, by Councillor Ferguson.

I’m prepared to close the book on this incident with that.

Next Step: City Hall Culture

City Hall has a problem, a major problem with its culture that intimidation and bullying is tolerated.

I’ve encountered this numerous time over the past three years as I’ve tried to cover public meetings. I’ve been harassed and bullied by frivolous complaints that – for example – I’m covering too many meetings and at City Hall too many hours each day. The complainants have been allowed to keep their anonymity without consequence.

I’ve had to turn to the Ontario Ombudsman to get City Hall to agree to release agendas for public meetings, after much interference and bullying behaviour from an influential minority at City Hall.

Despite all this harassment and bullying, I’m still covering City Hall. Tonight’s incident won’t change that.

What I do hope is that tonight’s incident begins a serious conversation at City Hall about bullying and violence.

This is the discussion we need to have, the question is: Will City Council have it?

  1. Wow! Hard to believe this kind of behaviour is going on at city hall. Councillor Ferguson acts like he’s still in high school. I would have thought that entering adulthood he would have shed this behaviour. We are living in the 21St Century, there is no place for his kind of intimidation and aggression at city hall.

  2. This is absolutely unacceptable behaviour. While I understand the Councillor has apologized, it will be his actions/behaviours that determine the authenticity of his apology. No one — journalists, community members, staff or colleagues — should have to put up with this type of bullying, intimidation or harrassment.
    A copy of Bill 168 should be given to every councillor and staff member in the City — it outlines the new rules for behaviour in the workplace.
    If that doesn’t work — then you should introduce them to some very seasoned workplace lawyers in Hamilton.

  3. Can’t agree more with comments.Clearly the city hosts a pervasive Toxic Environment . Unless they have changed their system completely in the past couple months they haven ‘t got a hope in hell of improving the work life of employees. I was fortunate to be in the position to resign last September and I resigned directly to the City Manager simply because I understood he was in fantasyland about his operation. I had worked my heart out part time for the City for 13 years and the first 12 were fantastic. New Supervisor and it went to hell overnite. The bullying and intimidation and manipulation and deception by Supervisor, Manager and Human Resorces was most upsetting.
    I worked hundreds of hours without even recording it. Maybe a couple thousand overtime which I charged straight time for with Management’s full knowledge.
    Absolutely no support available via Management. It got even worse when I involved Human Resources.
    Not even an acknowledgement of resignation ever. Heard via grapevine Supervisor was laughing to staff in office when she found out I had resigned.
    I would suggest staff be very very careful if they challenge Management. If possible go direct to Ont Human Rights, Ombudsman, or external legal or support services or publications
    I will repost my resignation letter separately on my website and Twitter

  4. The bottom line here, regardless of whether Ferguson apologized or not, is that he is probably guilty of misconduct under the Police Services Act with regard to conduct of a police board member. Ontario Regulation 421/97 section 13 clearly states that… Board members shall refrain from engaging in conduct that would discredit or compromise the integrity of the board or the police force…OCCPS should immediately conduct an investigation of this incident for a possible breach of the code of conduct by Ferguson. Why is it that people like Ferguson and Whitehead just don’t get it when it comes to their responsibilities as Police Service Board Members? Is there no one on this Council who can demonstrate some professionalism in this role?

  5. Joey, I am proud of you that you handled it so well when Ferguson grabbed you and pushed you, I would of not been so kind. No one should be abused in any way verbally or physically. This council can not stand for this in any way, zero tolerance. But as one can see they even bully each other at times and nothing is said or done, some act like goons. Very gracious of you that a apology was good enough for you, I would of taken it further, seeing Ferguson has been bulling you verbally for some time. I would request at minimum that he says he is very sorry this happened and it will not happen again at the next Council meeting. Keep up the great work, don’t let the bullying affect what you do for all of us.

  6. How is that a culture of bullying and intimidation is not tolerated on a bloody city bus yet the likes of Councillor Lloyd Ferguson constantly seem to think it’s okay?

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