It’s been nine months since the Human Rights lawyer representing retired City of Hamilton finance employee Shekar Chandrashekar wrote City staff and council demanding an explanation for the apparent blocking of Chandrashekar’ s emails to the City. Chandrasheker has been a persistent thorn in the side of city staff with his letters demanding financial information, and criticizing various accounting practices, particularly around the Hamilton Police Services.
Shekar campaigned for months to have the Police services receive its own external financial audit, rather than having it lumped in with the audit of the City’s books. He argued that the status quo resulted in insufficient scrutiny of the $60 Million dollar organization. Initially staff resisted, claiming such an audit would cost $250,000 a year, but it was soon determined that the audit would cost less than a tenth of that, and council agreed to the separate audit.
The Bay Observer learned that sometime in 2018 at an in camera meeting of Council staff made a presentation to Council complaining about Chandrashekar’s frequent communications, saying responding to his requests were eating up too much staff time. It was after that meeting that the retired accountant’s emails to council and staff were apparently blocked. On February 9th Wade Poziomka, a human rights lawyer sent a second letter to council reminding them of Chandrashekar’s concerns as follows:
- “His emails to City Council and City of Hamilton Staff were blocked,preventing him from contacting his elected representatives;”
- “His inability to obtain financial information that should be available in the public domain,being the consolidated financial statements with respect to eight entities, including committees of Council and boards and enterprises which are under the control of and/or are accountable to the Council;”
- “He has found inconsistencies and errors in the City of Hamilton’s budget which have been unaddressed by the Council,despite his attempts to bring the issues to the Council’s attention, and his express concerns that the inconsistencies are costing Hamilton tax payers significant amounts of money.”
City Auditor Charles Brown has weighed in on the issue, recommending that council develop a policy outlining “the criteria for redirecting or blocking citizen emails, establish the authority under which such action can be taken, and the due process entitlements of the citizen including being informed of the circumstances and reasons, length of time such action prevails, and opportunities for redress.”
Chandrashekar appeared several times as a delegation before the Hamilton Police Services Board andthe City’s Audit and Administration committee. In both instances the committees simply received his reports without comment and took no action.
Poziomka wrote that his advice to his client is to commence litigation immediately, including “potential constitutional litigation against the City of Hamilton, however my client has asked me to refrain from doing so in an effort to save the tax payers money that would otherwise be spent in defending the action that he would be well within his rights to commence.”
For his part, Shekar says “all I want to do is help the city save money on behalf of the taxpayers. There are many ways they could derive greater efficiency.”