Councillor Admits he is subject of a formal OPCP complaint[divider]
Ever since Hamilton Police Service Board member Jim Kay resigned last winter there has been speculation about whether his replacement would be someone more in tune with Board Member Terry Whitehead who had clashed with Kay over the size of the proposed increase to this year’s police budget.
After a divisive police board meeting at which Kay had supported the budget proposed by Chief Glenn DeCaire, Whitehead was captured on videotape telling Kay, in effect that his days were numbered as a council appointee to the board. Almost immediately, Kay quit the board. Last Month it was announced that Walt Juchniewicz, a local entrepreneur had been appointed to the Police Services Board by the City’s Selection committee to fill the vacancy.
Ward 8 Councillor Terry Whitehead issued the following statement regarding the appointment of a campaign donor to the Hamilton Police Services Board: The Provincial Government has provided strict rules on election donations by limiting donations to prevent any perception or real influence on elections. People donate to people they believe will represent them well. The list of people that donate to candidates are filed as a public document. This information has already been disclosed. Donating to campaigns is a part of democracy and should not be discouraged. Any one that donates to my campaign expect nothing in return but hard work. Let’s be clear no rules have been broken. I have been told and advised that if I can exercise my decisions objectively and there is no pecuniary interest there is no conflict! This has been the practice for decades. Now it is an issue? I have no problem having a debate on this issue, however, it should not come at the expense of an appointed representative that clearly has the qualifications and was supported unanimously by council. It is surprising that Gary did not ask the question how many of the Liberal Provincial Appointees on the police services board donated to the liberal government ,or even worked on their campaigns. Why has he not made this part the discussion? In closing I followed all the rules and exercised my duties objectively.
The selection committee is chaired by Coun. Brenda Johnson, but its membership includes Whitehead and Councillor Bernie Morelli, who both also serve on the Police Services Board. City Hall watcher Gary Santucci wrote a letter to the Hamilton Spectator pointing out that Mr. Juchniewicz had in past donated $750 to Whitehead’s election campaign, and that the appointment should be set aside pending a review.
The Bay Observer contacted Coun. Whitehead who insists there was no breach of conflict rules. Whitehead says he has reviewed the issue of campaign contributors applying for public appointments with a lawyer. The principle he says is, “whether or not you can exercise objectivity” in considering the application of a former contributor — a standard he acknowledged is self-applied. He cited as an example that he had declared a conflict when a former campaign manager applied for an appointment. “In that instance, I felt it was too close to home,’ he said.
Whitehead says the Walt Juchniewicz appointment was based on his merits. “He was able to recite passages from the Police Act during the interview,” said Whitehead, “He had done his homework.” With regard to the campaign contribution, Whitehead said other members of the Police Service Board, especially the provincial appointees, have contributed to the Liberal Party — a reference to board member Irene Stayshyn, who was appointed by the McGuinty Liberals.
The Bay Observer has learned that more than 30 people applied for the position but only six made it to the interview stage of the process. Whitehead said Juchniewicz got the nod because “he came from the private sector, not the public sector”— a reference to Kay who was a career fireman. But the Bay Observer has learned several of those who did not make the short list are well-known Hamiltonians who have occupied senior positions in business , charity and creative businesses. (The Bay Observer will not name unsuccessful candidates, but we have communicated directly with several of them.) Committee chair Brenda Johnson was asked if there is a formal scoring process to arrive at the final list of candidates. She replied that the short listing was done by the committee members and only when the final six were determined were they asked a uniform set of questions.
The Bay Observer also asked Whitehead whether he saw a conflict in the fact that both he and Councillor Morelli are members of the selection committee that recommends appointments to the police services board — in other words; should Police Service Board members be picking their own colleagues? “This has been the practice for decades — it has never been perceived as a conflict,” he replied. “Those councillors (on the selection committee) who are also on the board or committee in question are best suited to determine the skill set that is needed.” He says that in any of the public boards and agencies where citizens and members of council sit together, the views of the councillor who serves on that committee is given “a lot of weight.” He added he welcomes a public debate on the subject. Meanwhile Whitehead’s status as a member of the Police Services Board is in limbo.
In a conversation with the Bay Observer, Whitehead acknowledged that a formal complaint was headed to the Ontario Civilian Police Commission about his confrontation with Kay as well as some other incidents at Police Services Board meetings. Initially asked if he was asked to step aside pending the review, after a long pause, Whitehead said, “As far as I know I am still on the board.” Since then he has admitted that he is suspended pending a review of the complaint. The complaint to the OPCP was filed before the last Police Board meeting where Whitehead called Chief Glenn DeCaire a liar.
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