With Hamilton City Council’s approval of Councillor Sam Merulla’s motion calling for the Integrity Commissioner to investigate Mayor Bob Bratina for allegedly bullying City Manager Chris Murray at a council meeting last month, the issue of a double standard regarding bullying of staff is raised. In the incident in question, the mayor left his place at the council table and went over to where Murray was sitting, and according to Bratina said, “Why would you say that?” This after Murray had answered a question asking whether or not the city report titled Rapid Ready does or does not endorse the proposed LRT B Line. It was part of a larger discussion about whether or not the mayor is lobbying hard enough for LRT.
Council’s vote to have the Integrity Commissioner investigate the event, is a major departure for 13 of the 16 councillors who refused to censure their colleague Bernie Morelli in 2007 over a well-documented confrontation between Morelli and a member of city staff. Two former licensing managers actually lost their jobs for not adequately protecting the inspector following what court documents describe as an threatening and obscenity-laced altercation between the Ward 3 Councillor and taxi inspector Michael Francoeur. Francoeur was accused of being overzealous in pulling unsafe taxis off the road during a safety blitz. A taxi owner friend of the councillor complained to Morelli who rushed down to the city garage to confront Francoeur. Among other things, Morelli threatened to have Francoeur fired. Morelli has in the past disputed using profanity, but admitted the conversation was heated. Subsequent to that exchange, on a motion from Morelli and Coun Sam Merulla, the qualifications for taxi inspector were changed, and Francoeur was no longer eligible for the job. That triggered a lawsuit for wrongful dismissal which is still ongoing as well as an expensive application for a judicial review. The city refuses to tell the Bay Observer how much has been spent defending the city in the wake of the Morelli incident, and the matter has now been appealed to the Ontario Access to Information Office.
Council, looking into the matter refused to order Morelli to take sensitivity training as a consultant had recommended, and instead subjected themselves to sensitivity training. Current members of council who were involved in that decision include: Brain McHattie, Bob Bratina, Bernie Morelli, Sam Merulla, Chad Collins, Tom Jackson, Scott Duvall, Terry Whitehead, Brad Clark, Maria Pearson, Lloyd Ferguson, Russ Powers and Robert Pasuta.
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