When Hamilton Council voted to censure the chairman of Hamilton’s LGBTQ committee, they had in front of them an Integrity Commissioner’s report that suggested he had released the names of individuals contrary to the advice of City Clerk’s office and in violation of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Council wisely, were not going to go down the rabbit hole of censuring Cameron Kroetch for his public statements criticizing council, as the IC had recommended. As several of them said, criticism of council is fair game. But even more moderate council members like Brad Clark and John Paul Danko were troubled by the supposed privacy breach. We knew that the names of the individuals in question—a former city staffer accused of white supremacist ties, and a member of the Police Services Board– had been bandied about in local media. What was not clear from the report was that the City of Hamilton itself had published documents in the public domain that showed the names. We wonder if that was clear to council as they voted on the issue. It certainly wasn’t clear at all to those who read the Integrity Commissioner’s report and watched the discussion on the city’s social media page. It makes the grounds for censure to be so narrow as to be virtually meaningless.
And while we are on the subject, perhaps the biggest flaw in a report that deals with issue of integrity, which is ultimately about perceptions; is the fact that one of the principals of the company that conducted the investigation is the former Hamilton City Solicitor, Janice Atwood-Petkovski. She served the city for four years as a member of the senior management team, and as such, had interactions with a large number of the current members of council. One has to question, how current city staff would have not seen a potential perception issue in appointing the firm in the first place; and we simply don’t know if anyone on council saw the possible conflict. Also it calls into question the judgment of the firm, in offering itself given the sensitivity of the work that would be its mandate.