Brian Hatch explains why he launched an integrity complaint against Mayor Bratina for giving his chief of staff a 33 percent raise and what he hopes the outcome will be.
By Brian Hatch
Published March 13, 2012
Since I filed my affidavit regarding the raise Mayor Bratina gave his Chief of Staff Peggy Chapman, the two most commonly asked questions are:
Let me first state for the record that this complaint is solely based on the incident. I have never had a previous conflict with the mayor. As with all politicians, some of the things he does I agree with and some I don't, but never a previous conflict.
In fact I strongly believe the mayor is a big city booster and sincerely does what he thinks is best for the city. I have no hidden political or personal agendas. There were/are no historical factors.
My decision to file a complaint with the Integrity Commissioner was the result of four factors:
The first factor was the magnitude of the raise in this time of restraint, balanced budgets and all governments aiming for a zero percent tax increase. Nobody paid from the public purse, at any level of government, is entitled to a 33 percent increase.
I think it is outrageous that the mayor initiated this 33 percent increase and at the same time he agreed with council to impose a 3 percent cap on annual increases for non-union city staff.
The second was the mayor's response to the media when the raise was first reported. When dealing with the initial public outrage, the mayor claimed that the raise and the amount came from city staff.
In an interview on Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2011, he stated, "I didn't give a raise, she didn't ask for a raise". During a meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2011, Mayor Bratina stated, "It would have been public knowledge. You get it all leaked anyway." and "So there are a whole range of issues that have to be looked at in terms of why this city can't maintain confidentiality." and "So it was obviously leaked by somebody".
Both of these statements turned out to be blatantly false.
The truth is Mayor Bratina requested the salary review, Mayor Bratina decided on the amount and Mayor Bratina later acknowledged that it was his office that released the details of his Chief of Staff's raise on Cable 14 via The O Show.
The mayor later claimed his comments were "an unintentional misunderstanding". Not only did the mayor's comments confuse the citizens of Hamilton, the media and Council but even more troubling is that his comments were an attempt to shift the blame and criticism from himself to city staff.
Councillor Merula said in council that the mayor "threw the human resource department under the bus".
The third was the mayor's comments during the City of Hamilton Council Meeting on Dec. 14, 2011. The discussion on the raise given to Peggy Chapman by Mayor Bratina starts at 2:05 and continues until 2:41 (36 minutes). Mayor Bratina speaks from 2:21 until 2:33.
I urge everyone interested to go to the city of Hamilton website and watch the video because the mayor's comments were both bizarre and of concern.
He mentions several things such as the accomplishments of council and the 2007 council pay raises that have absolutely nothing to do with the raise he gave Peggy Chapman. These statements were yet another attempt by Mayor Bratina to muddy the water to deflect criticism.
Some of his statements of concern are: At 2:24 he states the raise will have "no impact on the taxpayer" and then at 2:25 he states "the public has a right to know because they are paying for it". These two statements are exact opposites.
Of greater concern is his belief that he can spend his $977,000 budget anyway he wants with impunity. At 2:26 he states "I have the right to spend my budget as long as I can justify it".
Who did he justify it to? Himself? Peggy? He did not justify it to council, or the media, or the citizens who elected him.
At 2:20 he states, "it is a grey area in terms of whether mayors, say with budgets of $900,000 I'm going to give $500,000 away to three people".
This is simply absurd. It is his budget to be sure, but it is not his money! It is the taxpayer's money and it is the taxpayers who will be paying this additional $30,000 for the next three years.
Every taxpayer should be very concerned if our mayor truly believes anyone with an approved budget can spend it any way they want with immunity.
The fourth was that on the 6:00 pm news on Thursday the 15th, it was reported that the city had not received a single integrity complaint. I, like many people I spoke to, thought the mayor's actions warranted a formal investigation - but they, like me, were waiting for someone else to do it.
I can assure that had someone else filed a complaint and initiated this process, I would not have filed my affidavit.
The big issue is that the mayor's statements were an attempt to deflect the outrage of the citizens of Hamilton from himself for political benefit.
His comments shifted the blame onto innocent city staff. He is their leader and the city's staff has the legitimate right to expect that he will both defend and support them, not throw them "under the bus".
Given it is likely that Peggy Chapman be with him for the balance of his term, this is a $100,000 issue. If that is not reason enough, as far as I know, Mayor Bratina still thinks he can spend his office's $977,000 approved budget anyway he chooses with impunity.
I would like three separate results from this formal investigation:
First, council needs to change the city's by-laws/rules to ensure that the office of the Mayor and all Councillors adhere to spending policies such as salary caps.
Second, the Mayor should be formally reprimanded. This is important because it sends the message that all elected officials can and will be held accountable for their actions.
I would also like the mayor to admit he was wrong and to apologize, not just to city staff, but also to all of the citizens of Hamilton. After all, his behavior was at the very least unacceptable and unprofessional.
Third, the Integrity Complaint Process needs to be changed. The current by-law needs to be amended by adding time lines to the investigation process.
My suggestion is that the Integrity Commissioner be required to issue interim status reports every 30 days to council with a goal of issuing a final report in 90 days.
If the Integrity Commissioner needs more time, he should be required to ask council for an extension. There also needs to be time lines for people to respond.
How long should council wait for the final report? 3 months, 6 months, 9 months, 1 year, 3 years? I don't know the answer but I do know council needs to mandate one.
I do know without a timetable the existing Integrity Complaint Process is flawed and needs to be amended to ensure it works in a timely fashion to be effective and meaningful. I strongly believe the city needs an Integrity Complaint Process that works.
If not amended to ensure that the Integrity Complaint Process works, then it should be eliminated.
Stay tuned there will be a report issued sooner or later. I hope!
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