Joey Coleman: Council must meet in open while debating Mayor's contradictory statements

Council must meet in open while debating Mayor's contradictory statements

When Hamilton City Council meets on Tuesday to consider sanctions against the Mayor Bob Bratina for his behaviour, they must meet in open session. To meet behind closed doors is to show a disdain for transparency which will taint whatever decision they make in response to the Mayor’s behaviour.

The reason for meeting in closed session, if Council decides to, will be “personal matters about an identifiable individual, including employees.”

The identifiable individual in this matter is Mayor Bratina and as a public official acting in a public capacity as Mayor, there is no reasonable expectation of privacy nor any public interest in covering up the truth – positive or negative – about the decision-making process that led to Mayor Bratina’s decisions and statements about increasing the salary of this Chief of Staff position.

Background – Mayor claims HR made decision, they didn’t, the Mayor did.

Hamilton City Council met behind closed doors last Thursday to discuss Mayor Bob Bratina’s statements regarding his decision to increase the pay rate of the Chief of Staff position within his office. (Note that I intentionally refer to the position not the person presently holding it)

It was revealed on Tuesday, via Laura Babcock on Cable 14, the Mayor’s Chief of Staff salary is increasing in 2012 to $120,000/yr from the present $90,000/yr. The Mayor’s office revealed the information to Babcock.

Each Mayor determines what salary the position will earn. In 2005, then-Mayor Larry Di Ianni paid his CoS $106,938.92. (His CoS was Mario Joanette for those confirming using the link to the salary disclosure page)

The matter before Council is the Mayor’s contradictory statements

The matter before Council is not the pay rate of the Chief of Staff or the pay raise. The matter before Council is Mayor’s Tuesday statement that the did not initiate or give the raise:

“HR reviewed Peggy’s employment status and found that she was vastly undercompensated based on job description and history, I didn’t give a raise, she didn’t ask for a raise.”

– Mayor Bratina’s statement on Tuesday to The Hamilton Spectator.

During Thursday’s closed-door meeting, human resources informed Council they do not determine the Mayor’s CoS compensation – the Mayor does. The Mayor’s office initiated the salary review process and it was the Mayor’s decision.

On Friday, the Mayor apologized in an emailed statement :

“Wednesday, in an interview I made comments regarding the salary adjustment given my Chief of Staff that left the impression that the initiative originated in the Human Resources Department. This was not the case, as I noted in the clarification I issued when I realized the impression that had been created by my remarks. I regret any negative inference that may have been created. The issue of salary review for this office is, of course, my responsibility as mayor. While I did seek comparative historical information from Human Resources and while I acted on the basis of that information, it was not my intention to suggest that the final approval was anyone’s other than my own. It is time to put this unfortunate distraction behind us, and hopefully we can get back to tackling the many important issues and exciting opportunities that we will face as a council in the coming year.

Bob Bratina, Mayor”

Losing focus, making this about Peggy Chapman not about the position or Mayor

The tone of the conversation about the Mayor’s decision to increase the Chief of Staff’s salary is often going off-focus onto the person presently in the position.

This discussion is not about Ms. Chapman’s qualifications or performance. The Mayor is fully within his rights to set the salaries in his office and evaluate performance of his staff.

Council is able to review the Mayor’s budget and if they feel his is spending too greatly on salaries for positions, Council can change the Mayor’s budget during the annual budget process.

The matter before Council and the community is the Mayor’s contradictory statements – did he intentionally lie or is there something we are missing. That is what Council needs to investigate and debate.

Citizens have the right to know

Council must conduct their inquiry in the open. Citizens have the right to know what happened, how it happened, and the Mayor’s response.

City Council must grant citizens this.

Citizens have the right to see it happen

In a twist of irony, even if Council decides to deal with this matter in open session, Citizens will not be able to watch City Council on Tuesday. The meeting is scheduled to be held at the Convention Centre and the City has no plans to provide a livestream of the meeting.

The City currently pays tens of thousands of dollars for livestreaming to an American company in a contract that was not tendered.

For this, the City must provide the equipment and must hold their meetings in Council Chambers for the American company they are paying to broadcast meetings.

Hence, if a committee meets outside of Council Chambers, citizens don’t have a right to see.