Bratina Already Knew Chapman Was Underpaid in February

By Ryan McGreal
Published December 16, 2011

this blog entry has been updated

Back on February 14, 2011, Mayor Bob Bratina gave a talk to the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce for the first Mayor's Breakfast, which was recorded by Cable 14.

The entire talk is worth watching, particularly given how the year unfolded, but it gets really interesting starting around the 17:04 mark:

We deliberately started out with a smaller staff because we wanted some time in the mayor's office to see where our resources could be best put to work to make the office as efficient and responsive as possible. We will add resources when we see the need and value. But let me give you a couple of examples.

The Mayor's first example was his decision not to have a driver on staff, for a savings of $70-75,000. But then he shared his second example of cost savings:

My own chief of staff - who's here, who has done such a wonderful job - when we were looking over the salaries over the past several years of people in that position, she decided on her own that she would take $20,000 less on an annual basis than what had been paid. [emphasis added]

So right back at the start of his mandate, Bratina and his chief of staff Peggy Chapman already knew how much money chiefs of staff had historically earned, and actually made a deliberate decision to pay Chapman $20,000 less than the job normally paid.

Why did they ask Human Resources for that information again in the past month? Did they forget that they had already researched this information at the start of the year?

When talking about Chapman's $30,000 increase to the Spectator last week, Bratina said:

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.

But we know that HR was only responding to a query that came from the mayor's office, as Bratina subsequently admitted - though he maintains the misstatement was unintentional.

So Bratina knew back in February that his chief of staff was underpaid relative to previous people in that position and bragged about it as one of his money-saving initiatives.

Fast-forward to the end of the year, and suddenly he discovers his chief of staff is "vastly undercompensated" after receiving historical pay information from HR - information he had already received at the start of his mandate and, indeed, formally acted upon.

Did Bratina simply forget that he had already discussed his chief of staff's pay as a significant talking point in his first prepared speech to the city's Chamber of Commerce?

Update: I didn't realize it when I wrote this, but this has already been covered by the O Show on Cable 14. Hat tip to Laura Babcock, Loren Lieberman and Larry Di Ianni for breaking this first.

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan wrote a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. His articles have also been published in The Walrus, HuffPost and Behind the Numbers. He maintains a personal website, has been known to share passing thoughts on Twitter and Facebook, and posts the occasional cat photo on Instagram.


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By gabriel (anonymous) | Posted December 16, 2011 at 11:40:39

I waited for the #Oshow to come up on Youtube before I had a chance to watch, and the hosts AHA! moment in defense of Bratina was very odd, like they tried to pass him off as this Tax saving saint.

But all it proved, and they neglected to mention, which you pointed out here, is that our mayor makes shit up and then lies about it to cover his ass.

I'm sure Babcock will be all giddy that she got a mention in a comment on RTH.

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By Mando (anonymous) | Posted December 16, 2011 at 11:48:48

As I tweeted just after Wednesdays Council meeting Our unrepenting Mayor has once again lied .. How can you know the pay rates in February but not know them in December either he needs a new assistant to remind him of things he says .. Oh he has one and she just got a raise ...lol.. All I can do is shake my head and wonder why anybody voted for this guy?

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By slodrive (registered) | Posted December 16, 2011 at 11:57:17 in reply to Comment 72331

In fairness to those who did vote for him, I doubt that they could even see the degree of smoke-and-mirrors that would become part of the routine.

Kudos to RTH for ensuring this dodgy approach is publicly documented.

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By LILT (anonymous) | Posted December 16, 2011 at 12:31:53

Wow. Makes Mayor Bratina's question about why his "female" chief of staff should be paid less than what other males in the same position have made (as reported by Emma Reilly on Twitter the other night) seem even more like an aggressive ploy to redirect everyone's attention.

His attempts to bait and switch this contentious situation that he created into a pay equity/women's rights issue are nothing short of insulting to the women in this city. (And of course his lies, cover-ups, and refusals to properly apologize and take full responsibility are insulting to all Hamiltonians.)

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By Gabriel (anonymous) | Posted December 16, 2011 at 13:28:58

Ryan, your update is incorrect and correct at the same time.

While the #oshow did air the clip first, they used it in Bratina's defence. But if you go back and watch last Tuesday's episode, you'll see no mention of anything you wrote in this article.

So kudos to you for breaking it.

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By H+H (registered) - website | Posted December 16, 2011 at 13:31:56

Although the debate about whether $120,000 is fair compensation, or whether $30,000 is to large a raise, continues, this piece points out the greater misdeed in my opinion.

There are so many questions about the constantly revised statements coming out of Mr. Bratina's mouth that I'm left shaking my head.

Given what has happened, one just has to ask the question, "Why?". Why did the mayor keep changing his story? Followed closely by another why question, "Why should we trust this guy?"

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted December 16, 2011 at 13:36:38

Why does this sound like a bad comic book retcon? Why didn't Bratina just say right from the get go when this story came out. "Yeah, I gave her a raise but only because both she and I agreed to pay her less, and here is the paperwork showing it." Some transparency would be nice, and I'm sure the Spec would have happily published a "Mayor's Head of Staff takes a pay cut" good news story. This to me reads like yet another lie, because who in their right mind would say "Yeah I want to make $20,000 less". Civic patriotism is one thing, but not to the tune of $20,000 a year that you later want to get back and refuse to give back.

That being said, even the blatant lies and deception to me aren't as upsetting as the fact they we are in a recession, the city is strapped for cash to fund infrastructure and cleanup projects and we're giving a ridiculous raise to the chief of staff. Not a modest raise (like say maybe $5,000), a ridiculous one to an employee who already makes $90,000 a year and is getting a raise that will make her as much money as the mayor. The mayor should be the ceiling as far as city wages are concerned because he's suppose to have more responsibilities.

I think that's the problem with our mayor, responsibility doesn't seem to be in his vocabulary as he flip-flops and lets his personal grudges get into his work.

Comment edited by -Hammer- on 2011-12-16 13:45:29

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By Bobby1 (anonymous) | Posted December 16, 2011 at 14:46:11 in reply to Comment 72337

Hammer may have summarized most of this whole issue quite well! I'll only add,for Chief of Staff,after a review of that persons performance,the Mayor believes a increase is appropiate,8% by City Policy provides a $7,200 raise! I would wet my pants getting a raise like that! I believe all anyone asks,consider the economy,consider the demographics of Hamilton taxpayers & do the right thing! Council is still behind closed doors getting guidance! Regardless,sometimes you can be so right that your wrong! This is politics & it's mostly about perception! Don't be so right, that your legacy changes from " the Mayor of the People" to, I made a decision & no one will make change it regardless if "the people of the Mayor" over whelmingly disagree!

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 16, 2011 at 15:00:46 in reply to Comment 72338


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By real legal story (anonymous) | Posted December 16, 2011 at 15:50:49

RTH readers would do well to look at a Citizens at City Hall posting today, Dec.16, 2011. It's a better and far more valuable read than the self-serving sneering above from someone writing as "Larry." Someone with a name like that ran twice for mayor and lost, after being charged with 41 counts of violating the Ont. Municipal Elections Act when he ran the first time (and won--in a 2003 campaign noted for his financial difficulty in raising money BEFORE the election day. Even Dreschel noted the strange money tale in Feb. 2005 in the Spec, though in 2006 the Spec had trouble remembering). That mayor eventually plea-bargained down to being found guilty of six counts. He had to write an essay about how to be a somewhat better public servant that was partially re-printed in the Spec. When RTH-ers new to this look at the new CATCH article, look at the links in the article--they are very instructive to a group now consumed with Bob, Peggy, and an annual extra $30,000. One link will help explain why many Hamiltonians were pleased to see Bob Bratina take part in the Nov.24, 2004 Council meeting --Bob having been just elected in a by-election.

CATCH http://hamiltoncatch.org/view_article.php?id=1021

Red Hill legal costs over $8 million, Dec 16, 2011

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted December 19, 2011 at 09:53:53

The worst part is that he could've easily gone in with the mostly-truth (obviously avoid the obvious fact that her low starting salary was just for the sake of spin) and come out looking fine.

"She's underpaid and doing the job of several people, so I'm giving her a raise. My office is still cheaper than most in the country". Boom, done. Instead he keeps digging himself deeper with lies.

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By Cityjoe (anonymous) | Posted January 14, 2012 at 17:55:29

When you take on a job, you are told what the salary will be, & what other benefits will be involved. At that point, you have the option of "Taking Or Leaving the job."

It doesn't matter if she is or isn't underpaid. She agreed to take the job @ the specified salary.

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