After a lively, and for this council, reasonably civil debate, Hamilton City Council voted by a large margin to issue a formal reprimand to Cameron Kroetsch for violation of Council’s code of conduct in his capacity as chair of the Hamilton LGBTQ Advisory committee. Council heard a presentation from Principles Integrity, the firm that was appointed Hamilton’s Integrity Commissioner. The report made two adverse findings with regard to Kroetsch’s behaviour writing, “he has inappropriately used his position as Chair of the LGBTQ Advisory Committee, including by improperly and publicly criticizing and disparaging Council decisions and processes through a radio interview in which he was identified as participating in his role as Chair of the LGBTQ AC. The commissioner argued that Kroetsch should not have made the remarks, while identified as the chair of the committee but should have indicated he was expressing personal opinions.
It was on the second finding that council ultimately voted to reprimand Kroetsch: “he has improperly publicly disclosed personal information about an identifiable individual when he posted an unredacted motion contrary to the advice of the Clerk and the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Personal Privacy Act.” This was in reference to a tweet Kroetsch posted in which he named two individuals, after being explicitly cautioned by City Clerk not to do so. One of the persons named was a member of the Police Services Board, whose appointment Kroetsch opposed; the other was the name of a former city employee who had been accused of having white supremacist connections in his past.
Council was almost unanimous in rejecting Kroetsch’s criticism of council on the Bill Kelly Show as grounds for a reprimand. Several councillors, including councillor Whitehead, said criticism of council was fair game and that council should not be seen as stifling fair comment in any way. But council was also surprisingly united on the issue of the breach of privacy, through the publication of the names of individuals. Councillor Brad Clark summed up what became the majority view of Council.
The vote to reprimand Mr. Kroetsch passed by a margin of 12-2 with one abstention.
After the meeting Mayor Fred Eisenberger issued the following statement:
Council has voted to receive the City’s Integrity Commissioner’s report regarding the current Chair of the LGBTQ Advisory Committee which found this individual breached the Hamilton Advisory Committee/Task Force Code of Conduct and, as it relates to the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA), has issued a formal reprimand.
The situation is regrettable; however, the Integrity Commissioner’s finding underlines that Council and its committees, subcommittees and advisory committees are subject to the Municipal Act and provincial laws, and ignoring these laws have consequences.
This situation could have been avoided had the LGBTQ Advisory Committee Chair followed the advice of the City clerks who are there to ensure everyone acts within the laws and procedures which are in place to protect everyone.
Our Volunteer Advisory Committees are critical voices to have within our organization and our community. Hamilton is stronger when community members feel empowered to share their voices, their advocacy and ideas. Representing our city also means we each have a Code of Conduct to adhere to. I look forward to continuing to hear from our committees as we collectively strive to continuing to build a city we can all be proud of.