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Red Hill documents show panicky city staff strategizing how to reveal existence of Red Hill report on friction

Red Hill documents show panicky city staff strategizing how to reveal existence of Red Hill report on friction

The release of withheld documents by the Red Hill Inquiry points to the level of panic that ensued among City Staff after the discovery of the 2013 Tradewind report that identified low friction levels on the Red Hill Parkway. The City engaged a crisis communications specialist as well as outside lawyers, as they spent six months between the discovery of the report and the day they finally revealed it to Council. At that time the city was awash with lawsuits over accidents on the highway, a Freedom of Information request from the Spectator, and a value-for-money audit on Red Hill pavement by the city’s internal auditor.

Gord McGuire, who took over as head of engineering from Gary Moore, who commissioned the friction test, polled each of his senior management team, asking them to declare if they had ever seen the Tradewind report. Every one said they had not, although several indicated that they knew friction testing had been done but were unable to get the results from Moore. An anonymous letter, one of several received by the inquiry, suggested several of Moore’s former staff knew testing had taken place.

Outside lawyer David Bogoshian interviewed Brian Malone of CIMA, a consulting firm hired in 2016 to perform a safety audit on the road and was told Moore was a very strong-willed individual and refused to accept that the road design might be a factor in some of the accidents that had taken place on the RHVE. Malone also suggested the use of stone mastic asphalt pavement was a contributor to the accidents  because of a phenomenon known as micro ponding. An early draft of a 2015 safety report done by CIMA talked about the potential slipperiness issue and recommended friction testing, Moore objected to the section recommending friction testing and added a note that the whole subject could end up exposing the city to more lawsuits. In one of his notes, he maintained that speeding was the main cause of the accidents. In any event, the final CIMA report was watered down to remove the term “recommendations” and instead substituting it with “options for consideration.”

In January of 2019 Audit services asked the IT department to do a search of Moore’s emails, but IT reported the system would only allow them to go back as far as 2016 which was three years after the Tradewind report was delivered.

When it came time to tell council what had happened there was disagreement between Mayor Fred Eisenberger and council. The mayor wanted the report to be presented in the in-camera portion of an upcoming GIC meeting where it would not attract a lot of attention, But members of council insisted it be dealt with in a special GIC meeting followed by a special council meeting. By this time Mr. Bogosian’s notes indicate a good deal of council anger directed at Moore.

A note between Boghossian and the city solicitor described another conversation with Malone of CIMA where Malone is quite definite that SMA paving was only experimental. That it was used mostly in Europe and Southern USA, and that overall, it is known to have lower friction characteristics. None of this was in any report Malone’s company previously provided to the City. The opinions of consultants became much more pointed after Moore’s departure from the scene.

There was also dialogue about a staff decision to resurface the road—a multi-million dollar undertaking that apparently was done without  a specific request to council. Notes show staff were concerned people would notice that the resurfacing was being done several years early. They pulled the money out of a “lost development” envelope apparently so it would not require council approval.

As part of the communications plan, staff decided to share with council a CIMA finding stating that the RHVP had wet surface collision rates that are “significantly higher than provincial averages on similar roadways during wet weather.” The decision was made after legal advice that this information was being requested under Freedom of Information by the Spectator and would likely have to be produced eventually.

On February 6. 2019 Council received the news in a closed-door session. Acting City Manager Mike Zegarac issued a memo to Moore telling him not to speak to the media or anybody else under pain of dismissal for cause. The immediate fallout from the Mayor and several members of council was to explore how Moore could be terminated. By that time Moore had been seconded to the LRT office on a two-year contract and his salary was being reimbursed by Metrolinx.

Describing council’s reaction to the news, John McLennan, then the head of Risk Management for Hamilton, emailed former city Treasurer Tony Tollis,  saying: “the interesting part will be trying to control council. It was fascinating to see how quickly they went into political CYA (cover your a**) mode, without a care at all for the liability exposure. “Heads will roll” talk started about 2 minutes into closed session. I’ve asked the insurer for an advisory that I can give to Council about not putting our coverage in jeopardy. We also need to have Gary (Moore) on our side. I’m sure he would be very convincing explaining why the report was bullshit but he is unlikely to do that if they throw him under the bus.”

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