Chapman Pay Fiasco Gets Worse and Worse

By Ryan McGreal
Published March 22, 2012

You may remember the controversy last year when Mayor Bob Bratina's gave his chief of staff, Peggy Chapman, a $30,000 raise but said the decision had come from the City's Human Resources department.

Over several days and two separate statements, he gradually backed down from that claim and acknowledged that he had made the decision himself - though he maintained that the misunderstanding was "unintentional".

The Mayor's poor handling of the situation, and in particular his ongoing communications about it, turned what could have been a good-news story into a fiasco that spurred closer scrutiny of the City's pay increase policies and even threatened a formal censure.

Now the issue has reared up again in the light of the Spectator's report last week that Chapman made the so-called sunshine salary list for 2011, meaning she earned more than $100,000.

Chapman's place on the list was leaked to the Spectator in time for columnist Andrew Dreschel to write about them last Friday in a hit-piece that appears to have caught Chapman flat-footed and managed to elicit some awkward quotes:

"Geez, I get like 17 [vacation] days, but I don't know if that includes my e-days (five days of paid leave in lieu of overtime) because I'm a senior manager kind of person ... but I don't know."

Though her salary last year was $90,000, a payout in lieu of vacation helped push her over the public disclosure threshold. According to City rules, cash in lieu of vacation should only be approved for "extenuating circumstances". Bratina refused to comment when the Spectator asked for clarification on why Chapman was approved, saying that the question "overstepp[ed] the bounds of privacy as (it) relates to personnel and H.R. policy."

Are you cringing yet? It gets worse.

Email to Spectator

According to Dreschel's Monday column, Bratina struck back in an email to Spectator editor-in-chief Paul Berton that accused the paper of "malicious intent with regard to publishing material about my office."

He further charged the paper with "unrelenting and in many cases completely false or misleading news coverage, editorial comments, and ignorant attacks on my character, and that of my chief of staff through immoral and unethical use of editorial cartoons."

The email actually blames the Spectator for forcing Chapman to cancel her vacation and hence earn over $100,000:

I hope some day your wives and family experience the unhappiness you have caused my wife and family, destroying our enjoyment of this past Christmas with the unfounded attacks on my employee's compensation. She had vacation time booked, but was forced to remain close to home while that horror unfolded in your publication.

Perhaps most remarkable, Bratina once again asserts that the decision to give Chapman a $30,000 raise came from HR and not from himself:

This is blatantly not true. I made no such decision, but left the matter of compensation, as I've said over and over, to the outcome of a review by Human Resources.

Bratina also took a swipe at Ward 4 Councillor Sam Merulla: "Of course the required Merulla quote was added in, as usual completely useless in terms of relevance."

You can read the full email [PDF], including a chain of emails between Bratina and Spectator reporter Emma Reilly.

Renewed Call for Censure

Yesterday, Merulla raised the issue at council and gave a notice of motion that he intends to bring a motion forward next Wednesday to Censure the Mayor.

"We're at our wits' end when it comes to the drama coming out of the Mayor's Office," said Merulla after the issue was discussed at length at Wednesday's general issues committee meeting. "He needs to man up and accept responsibility for this mess."

At issue is the fact that once again, Bratina is trying to deflect responsibility for Chapman's $30,000 raise to HR, despite previously apologizing for making this claim.


Last December, Bratina stated, "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."

However, he later acknowledged that it was his own office that had initiated the inquiry into Chapman's salary and that it was his decision to grant the raise, once an email from HR director Helen Hale Tomasik clarified that HR had not initiated the increase.

Council arranged an in camera meeting to consider a censure against the Mayor. Meanwhile, Bratina issued an awkward statement that expressed "regret" for "any negative inference that my comments may have created".

At the meeting, Council deferred a decision until they had a chance to speak to Bratina directly about the incident. Bratina followed up with another statement that acknowledged his "comments were not well-worded and taken to mean unintentionally that the H.R. department initiated or directed the higher salary. For this, I take full responsibility."

It was an apology, but he was apologizing for using words that other people might misunderstand, rather than apologizing for blaming HR. Nevertheless, it was enough to satisfy the rest of Council and they voted not to issue a censure.

One aspect of the Mayor's decision to grant his chief of staff a $30,000 increase received very little attention: the fact that Bratina already knew Chapman was underpaid as early as February 2011.

Even if we accept his claim that he "did seek comparative historical information from Human Resources" and "acted on the basis of that information," that doesn't square with his words to the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce on February 14, 2011:

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.

It is unclear why Bratina would ask Human Resources for that information again later in the year. Did he forget that they had already researched this information at the start of Bratina's term and, indeed, bragged about it in a prepared talking point for the Chamber?

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 George (registered) | Posted March 22, 2012 at 10:52:04

He desperately needs a communications director more than a chief of staff.

How a politician, never mind a mayor, can be so poor at communicating is astonishing.

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By George (registered) | Posted March 22, 2012 at 11:27:26

Upon reading the mayor's email exchange with Emma Reilly, I fail to see what he's so upset about.

What am I missing? So she said he went to watch a dance performance...Couldn't he easily corrected that by writing an email/letter to her or the Spec in a professional dispassionate manner that we all expect from our mayor?

He comes across as very thinned skinned, borderline paranoid. It's pretty sad for such a proud Hamiltonian.

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By red24 (registered) | Posted March 22, 2012 at 13:27:49

Maybe his military advisor could help with communications. Or maybe he already is.

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By Conrad66 (registered) | Posted March 22, 2012 at 13:35:43

This Mayor is no smarter then a 6 grader Ohh i think im unsulting the 6 graders sorry kids .. yous are all smarter then Bob Bratina .. i will never call him a Mayor ever again ... he is a poor excuse for a Mayor !!!!!!!

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By Conrad66 (registered) | Posted March 22, 2012 at 13:40:28 in reply to Comment 75375

sorry insulting i meant .. lol

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By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted March 22, 2012 at 13:50:41

What do you guys expect? His mayoral campaign has no platform whatsoever except for deamalgamating Hamilton, something he has no jurisdiction over (how is that going by the way.)

This says more about the people of Hamilton who voted in this fool just because he sounds good on the radio.

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By Robert D (anonymous) | Posted March 22, 2012 at 15:02:56 in reply to Comment 75377

De-amalgamation is probably going as well as getting all day two-way GO Train service to Hamilton.

*A man runs into his office, obviously out of breath. Tossing his hat from his head he slides into the chair at his desk and picks up the phone - punching at the numbers furiously!*

"Hello....yes....yes, it's me again, do you have any plans for all day two-way GO train service to Hamilton yet? No? Alright....I'll try back tomorrow - same time."

*He puts down the receiver softly, somewhat dejected, his chest still heaving, out of breath. He looks at the clock - it is 9:07 am.*

[Fade slowly to black.]

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted March 22, 2012 at 14:01:21


Seriously, Bob? Seriously?

At this point I actually feel kinda bad for Peggy. I mean, she's getting what could be considered reasonable compensation for her important position (even if her position includes the unfortunate job of stonewalling the public), but her boss keeps making this situation worse and drawing fire back onto her.

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By facepalm (anonymous) | Posted March 22, 2012 at 14:05:43 in reply to Comment 75378

You don't think Pegs helped write that letter?

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By bobby1 (anonymous) | Posted March 22, 2012 at 14:26:53

Just read the contents of Mayor Bratina's email to The Spec! I'm totally surprised a Mayor of a major City would write such an email! Firstly he blames the Spec for publishing the story about her 33% increase which due to that horror resulted in her cancelling her vacation in December to manage the fallout! This is obviously due to Mayor being advised that City policy only allows vacation payout due to extenuating circumstances & he is setting the stage for such justification! Cell phones,internet allow you to monitor any situation from most places in the world & I don't remember her doing any local physical duties (damage control) during that period! No interviews,no emails to the press! In fact, she has been mostly silent regarding her increase until questioned about sun shine list! Don't really blame her as she was the recipient of such largeness & didn't make the increase decision!
The other major surprise is the Mayor has returned to the original position that he didn't make the pay increase decision,but HR did & he simply approved? Originally he threw the HR head under the bus,got called out on the falsehood,dived under the bus with a half hearted opology & rescued her & now feeling heat again decided best course of action is to throw her back under the bus! OMG,this is an employee of Hamilton with no power compared to the Mayor & apparently falsely accused again of deciding the huge raise! I really think in his heart he is a good person,but loses perspective when under pressure and made a HUGE mistake a second time regarding this HR employee!
I think maybe our Mayor is away over his head,is very thin skinned & overly combative with self serving justifications that make little sense to average citizen following these events! Councillors,including the normally silent ones on controversy's need to step up & state publicly their support or censor of our Mayor's actions in these recent days.

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted March 22, 2012 at 14:29:55

You don't think Pegs helped write that letter?

I hope not. If she did, she's not worth $120k. I do kinda doubt it though: throughout this whole saga she's looked a whole lot wiser than her boss by laying low.

If you believe Bratina's alleged "apologists" at The Hamiltonian, "Peggygate" is weak sauce, destined to flop. Yet the Mayor had an opportunity to let this whole thing just flare out and die, and instead re-ignited it with the letter. I think that seems pretty in-line with his well-known personality traits, no?

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By who knows the real truth (anonymous) | Posted March 22, 2012 at 15:29:49

Question: If this Peggy works for the mayor, hand picked by him, how come she is considered a city employee and entitled to all the entitlements?

Should not her pay come out of his budget?

Sounds like she did not go through normal hiring practices, period.

Too much hokey pokey if you ask me!

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By you too? (anonymous) | Posted March 22, 2012 at 15:44:30

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By theOther (registered) | Posted March 22, 2012 at 19:09:38 in reply to Comment 75386

Hey y.t., for the enlightenment of folks like myself, what are the 'real things going on in Hamilton'? And how is the behaviour of a head of council who lies, betrays and degrades the reputation of a senior staffer, concocts a phony and half-assed apology to appease his colleagues, then purposely rejuvenates the original lie in a fit of pique, somehow outside the realm of important stuff? Sincerely, Notajealoustrafficop

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By highwater (registered) | Posted March 22, 2012 at 16:21:29 in reply to Comment 75386

Jealous people--"concerned" that the mayor's "Girl" helper is making as much as hundreds and hundreds of traffic cops in Ontario. This is the exec for mayor of one of Ontario's biggest cities, whether you like her and her work or not.

So you think the people who are shocked at the Mayor's duplicity on this issue are only motivated by envy and sexism? Seriously? Peggy, is that you?

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By jackson (anonymous) | Posted March 22, 2012 at 18:01:33 in reply to Comment 75390

why is it every time there's a critical article of some person and someone defends them, someone invariably rebuts that said defender is said object of criticism?

This is not a terribly important criticism, it just bugs me as a phenomenon. As you were.

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By highwater (registered) | Posted March 22, 2012 at 18:53:21 in reply to Comment 75392

That's not my normal default reaction, but in this case the 'defense' was so bizarrely personal, I couldn't help wondering if it wasn't someone close to her, if not the woman herself.

Comment edited by highwater on 2012-03-22 18:55:03

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By George (registered) | Posted March 22, 2012 at 16:16:28 in reply to Comment 75386

It's not about the pay scale for mayor's chief of staff.

It's about, saying one thing and doing another.

It's about throwing staff under the bus.

It's about a disregard for courteous and respectful public discourse.

It's about dignity and professionalism (or lack thereof)

It's about competence.

All are not only fair game, but quite newsworthy.

I have yet to read here, or elsewhere, anyone saying that Hamilton's mayor's chief of staff should not make make the going rate of other mayoral chiefs of staff.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted March 22, 2012 at 16:53:45 in reply to Comment 75389

>> It's about, saying one thing and doing another.


>> It's about a disregard for courteous and respectful public discourse.

"He comes across as very thinned skinned, borderline paranoid. It's pretty sad for such a proud Hamiltonian."

>> It's about competence.

Our last two mayors each held office for one term. Were they competent? If so, why were they not re-elected?

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By DoctorKahuna (registered) | Posted March 23, 2012 at 09:45:03 in reply to Comment 75391

Hamilton does have a lot of lunatics.

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By Doover (anonymous) | Posted March 22, 2012 at 15:56:44 in reply to Comment 75386

It's a big issue because this clown has set back our city at least 15-20 years. Between the damage he has done on LRT, the stadium and all the other things he royally messed up, he deserves all the coverage he is getting. He isn't a big-thinker and so I think it is poetic justice that he should fall on these type of issues.

A good question is whether we should start revisiting some of the decisions that have occurred under his watch just like Mayor Ford and the subway/lrt debate in Toronto.

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By BoBra (anonymous) | Posted March 23, 2012 at 09:55:04 in reply to Comment 75387

Is it too late to move the stadium?

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By Technocrat (anonymous) | Posted March 23, 2012 at 10:10:28

I'm surprised that Dreschel got this email. I didn't know an Underwood could accept emails. Must be an app for that.

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By DoctorKahuna (registered) | Posted March 23, 2012 at 11:32:51 in reply to Comment 75404

These are some progressive times so it shouldn't be all that surprising who can use e-mail these days. I mean, heck, it's the 21st century and look how far we've come as a society. Both Hamilton and Toronto have voted in lunatics for mayor. One of them is even competent enough to use e-mail (albeit not very responsibly....but he's trying)

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By Death (anonymous) | Posted April 02, 2012 at 20:29:59 in reply to Comment 75405

insult spam deleted

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By you too? (anonymous) | Posted March 23, 2012 at 14:45:12

You all must be real new to Hamilton "media". born yesterday, maybe. Suppose the pay raise went just like you all think it shoulda--then what would spec and its column writer have did? They'd sure of found somethin--and Ryan knows that better then most--sent from new fangled commnctn device::did youse all know dreschel used to be a reporter and once or twice a year in the old days Spec was a actual newspaper?

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By theOther (registered) | Posted March 23, 2012 at 19:39:38 in reply to Comment 75409

Yoohoo: I really want to believe that y'all are not deliberately dumbing-down your remarks so as not to be found out to be a Sunshine-worthy City Hall operative trying to throw RTH off the scent. I've yet to turn a page of the Observer, so please help me understand. And as you do, please finish explaining the 'real things going on in Hamilton'. Thank you.

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By huh? (anonymous) | Posted March 24, 2012 at 13:35:58 in reply to Comment 75417

Huh? when did you start reading the Spec? yesterday? try the weeklies--all of them--, CATCH, the Toronto papers, the CBC--If what isn't reported isn't known--doesn't exist: that's Spec talk. If this person is right--if it isn't in the Spec it does not exist--, then RTH is a failure, editor RM.

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By A Smith (anonymous) | Posted March 25, 2012 at 06:45:48

Talking about pay, here are some fun facts...

U.S. minimum wage (40 hr week) as a percent of U.S. GDP/capita.

1950 - 80.6%
1956 - 80.0%
1963 - 79.7%
1968 - 73.4%
1974 - 59.3%
1978 - 53.5%
1990 - 34.1%
1997 - 35.1%
2011 - 30.9%

If the current U.S. minimum wage matched even 1974 levels, it would go from $7.25/hr to $13.93/hr. It would be $18.94 if they wanted to reach 1950 minimum wage rates.

Ontario's minimum wage of $10.25 divided by Ontario's GDP/capita is 44.59%. Using Canada's GDP, it works out to 42.28%.

Australia's current ratio of minimum wage to GDP/capita is 55.93%.

If Canada matched Australia's minimum wage/GDP per capita ratio, it would be $13.56/hour. If we wanted to use 1950 U.S rates, Canada's minimum wage would currently be $19.54/hour.

Unemployment rates

Australia - 5.2%
Canada - 7.4%
U.S. - 8.3%

I used to think that minimum wage hurt employment, but I think I was wrong. If rich people are simply hoarding large parts of their incomes, there needs to be a way to bring this cash off the sidelines. A higher minimum wage likely does just that.

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By don't snow the snowman (anonymous) | Posted March 25, 2012 at 13:49:42

I have had email conversations with all three of the mentioned, Mr. Berton, Dreschel and Reilly concerning various articles they have written. I don't agree with Mr. Bratina's assertion that there is "malicious intent with regard to publishing material" I do how ever believe the Spec in general will stretch, and twist the facts to fit their own personnel agenda and sometimes resort to childish name calling and goading to get a response. In my case, the three aft mentioned reporters showed they have thin skins themselves and shouldn't throw rocks. The only person I will give credence do is Burton even though he feels alternative news sources and blogs are considered jokes.(some are, but as a whole they provide a side of the news the Spec doesn't cover).

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By spec-fooey (anonymous) | Posted March 25, 2012 at 14:44:45

what Spec has not reported over the last [pick]: 2 5 10 15 years could fill a city. We see that spec got one loyalist trolling way up above in this comment thread. Go ahead, pal, pay to buy it. Spec on purpose avoid much reporting. Cheaper. And don't explain that they do the big FEATURES three times a year--its the day to day things they on purpose ignore--somebody said a few years ago dreshel got the most easy newspaper job anywhere. And above somebody kidding about RTH being a 'failure'--just because one user is wants to be idiotic--and Berton does what Dana Robbins tells him to.

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