Appointment of new Ward 3 Councillor and Lack of Transparent Process

Let’s first get this clear, the debate about the process of filling the Ward 3 Councillor vacancy is not about the merits of appointing former Mayor Bob Morrow to fill the vacant seat until December 1, 2014.

The debate is about if Hamilton City Council should be diligent in its decision-making and transparent in its processes.

Unfortunately, much like the Pan-Am Station decision of 2010, Council prefers finding a “solution” behind closed doors without debate or public input.

We learned this week that during the funeral for the late Bernie Morelli, back room discussions were occurring to determine who would fill the vacancy created by Morelli’s death.

Out of these discussions – we still don’t know who was involved or how – a decision was made to appoint former Mayor Bob Morrow.

Ward 4 City Councillor Sam Merulla contacted The Spectator and CBC to make the announcement. Quickly, articles appeared to announce that Morrow would be appointed to the seat.

Ward 9 Councillor Brad Clark says media reports of Council’s “consensus” is how he and many of his fellow Councillors found out about the arrangement.

The Permissive Municipal Act

The Municipal Act does not prescribe how a City Council is to conduct an appointment for a vacancy on a City Council. It merely sets the timelines that a decision is to be made.

Secret votes are not allowed under the Municipal Act.

The Legislative Assembly, by not prescribing procedure, entrusts municipalities to govern themselves in a transparency democratic fashion while allowing for local autonomy to ensure each vacancy and regions unique circumstances are properly accommodated.

The Legislature is trusting municipal politicians to be able to govern themselves properly.

Traditionally, municipal level vacancies that are filled by appointment are advertised, candidates are invited to put their names forward, public meetings are held to allow the candidates to be vetted, and a public vote occurs to fill the vacancy.

In Hamilton, we had a series of private meetings, a series of private names were discussed, and an unknown group of City Councillors decided on whom to appoint.

Those who were not part of this network of unknown people were not invited into the process and the public was not informed until a decision was made.

Much the same as with the stadium at Ivor Wynne Stadium, a decision without public knowledge.

This is how our City Council is making big decisions and it is not acceptable.

Bob Morrow, City Councillor

The outcome, the appointment of former Mayor Bob Morrow, is a good one.

I, for one, was thinking about who was best able to fill the position and the idea of appointing an elder civic statesman was the conclusion I came to.

However, this was only after a proper public process that ensured our community had diligently filled the position.

The Decision is Made, What About Next Time?

The “process” is now complete. Morrow is the Ward 3 City Councillor.

Moving forward, how does Council not engage in backroom rushed decision making when facing a difficult choice?

Governance isn’t easy, democracy is difficult, and it isn’t quick.

Only Ward 9 Councillor Brad Clark had the courage of conviction to vote for a proper public process.

The next Council needs to create a clear set of policies to ensure processes are in place for difficult decision making.

Next time, we may not have a candidate such as Mayor Morrow that a consensus can be arranged upon despite a back room tainted process.