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Remembering Shekar Chandrashekar

This writer didn’t get to know Mirle Chandrashekar, the retired City of Hamilton accountant until the last few years of his very productive life. Everyone knew him as Shekar. He had been a long time employee of the city in the finance department, and he knew where all the skeletons were buried and his memory went way back.

I first got to know Shekar when I was looking into doing a story about the Hamilton Waterfront Trust, an organization that operated somewhat like a mini version of Robert Moses’ Triborough Bridge Authority, the agency in New York City that operated without being accountable to anybody, and the subject of a 1,300-page doorstopper by Robert Caro. A series of Waterfront Trust stories ensued that detailed coverups of liabilities, work undertaken without necessary permits, sole sourcing, conflicts of interest and nepotism—to all of which Hamilton City Council tuned a blind eye.

Shekar valued personal and professional integrity above all else. He hated liars. He kept a close eye on his former Finance Department and drove many of his former colleagues nuts with his frequent critiques of the way things were reported. Some of its was accounting 101 stuff, like where and how to record an asset—eye glazing stuff for the uninitiated—but he was also alert to instances where the exercise of the black art of politics superseded proper accounting. So whether it was hiding millions of dollars in LRT propaganda disguised as “studies” in the city roads budget, or the Police service finding some of its funding for a new forensic building by overbilling the province for Pan AM policing, Shekar was all over it. He made frequent written and personal submissions to council committees and the Police Services Board. Mostly, to the relief of accounting staff, Shekar’s submissions were over the heads of members of council and the board.

Shekar was a voracious reader. Every time I saw him he was carrying a book, usually a hard cover book. They must have loved him at Indigo. Shekar’s wife of 50 year, Patricia told me, “he had a pencil tucked in each book so that he could underline words or sentences that really spoke to him.  His books are all marked with pencil lines.  The books he enjoyed most, of course, are marked up more.”

“He also like sayings and enjoyed distorting them,” Pat continued.  “One of my favourites is “That’s the way the cookie bounces”.  He never reversed it by saying “That’s the way the ball crumbles” which doesn’t have the same impact.  He often quoted his father who said “Tie a string around a mountain.  If the mountain comes, good, if not, drop the string.”  Shekar did not follow his father’s advice.  He could not drop the string and continued to fight for those causes that mattered to him.”

Mirle Chandrashekar leaves his wife Patricia and  his daughters Jessica and Samantha of whom he was tremendously proud. He was a man of uncommon decency and integrity.

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