Special Report: Integrity Commissioner

Integrity Commissioner Report Fails To Consider Crucial Question

Integrity Commissioner Earl Basse's report clears Mayor Bratina of bullying City Manager Chris Murray, but it fails to address the heart of the matter.

By Adrian Duyzer
Published November 13, 2013

Hamilton's Integrity Commissioner Earl Basse has released a report that clears Mayor Bob Bratina of a complaint that he bullied City Manager Chris Murray during a council meeting last April.

Unfortunately, this report fails to address the heart of the matter, namely: did Bratina engage in behaviour that can reasonably be characterized as bullying, abusive and/or harassing?

Background

The complaint was filed by City Council after an outburst that Bratina directed at Murray during a heated council meeting. You can read the report here (thanks to the Hamiltonian for hosting the report; the Hamiltonian thanks the Spectator for providing it).

According to the report:

The Complaint alleges that, during the lengthy discussion of the Motion, the Mayor stepped away from his place at the table, approached the City Manager and said something to him. Unfortunately the Video Stream did not record the Mayor's exchange with the City Manager. However, it did show the Mayor leaving his position at the head of the "Horseshoe" and returning after 17 seconds. The Video Stream did not show where the Mayor went.

Investigation revealed that the Mayor did leave his place at the middle of the "Horseshoe", approached the City Manager and stated to the Manager:

"I can't believe you said that! I can't believe you said that!"

This was confirmed during an impassioned exchange between Mayor Bratina and Councillor Farr during the Council Meeting of April 24, 2013 after the Motion had been referred by to the Clerk's office. This was also confirmed by other witnesses.

Although the words Bratina used are not obviously problematic, the manner of the exchange was disturbing enough to Council that the vote to refer the matter to Basse was unanimous. In other words, this was seen by those present as something quite serious.

The Report

Basse has now cleared Bratina, writing that:

The Mayor's tone and comments to the City Manager at the Council Meeting of April 24, 2013 were not appropriate but I do not find it in contravention of either Section 13.2 or 17.1 of the Code of Conduct for the following reasons:

a. The City Manager did not feel intimidated or threatened by the Mayor's actions nor did he believe his professional reputation had been injured.

b. Other employees in close proximity to the City Manager did not feel intimidated or harassed;

c. The tone of the discussions relating to Councillor McHattie's Notice of Motion was fervent and there were some emotional and accusatory exchanges during that discussion. The Mayor's tone in his exchange with the City Manager reflected the emotion of the meeting but was not considered to be threatening.

To me, the crux of the report is this part: "The City Manager advised he was surprised at the tone and content of the Mayor's comments to him but was neither intimidated nor threatened by the exchange nor did he feel his professional reputation was injured."

The problem is that Murray's opinion on this is not necessarily relevant. It is certainly not objective, given the power imbalance between the Mayor and the City Manager. Murray is unlikely to raise a stink over this if he feels it would harm his current position, job prospects, etc.

To make a poor analogy, this is like asking an abused woman whether her husband is abusive. Depending on what is going on she may say he is not, even when the facts may clearly indicate the contrary.

In other words, Basse's report is based on how Murray and other staff members felt, as opposed to being based on what Bratina actually did. Worse, it is based on how Murray and other staff members say they felt or currently feel, which, given the power imbalance at hand, is questionably reliable.

The key question here is not whether Murray felt bullied. The key question is whether Bratina engaged in behaviour that can reasonably be characterized as bullying, abusive and/or harassing.

It was Basse's job to answer this question. It was certainly also his job to answer it in a timely manner (it took him seven months). I don't believe either of those responsibilities were met.



Video

UPDATE: Joey Coleman has graciously provided video of the incident and subsequent council debate about it.

The Incident

The video above shows Bratina walking - with purpose - to Chris Murray and the immediate reaction of those nearby to the comment.

The Incident and Council Debate About It

Adrian Duyzer is an entrepreneur, business owner, and Associate Editor of Raise the Hammer. He lives in downtown Hamilton with his family. On Twitter: adriandz

11 Comments

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By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted November 13, 2013 at 17:09:31

Politically, there does not seem to be much in this region that is held to a high standard of professionalism and integrity.

They say it is darkest just before dawn. I hope this is that hour for the GTHA; I hope this is as bad as it gets. I was just overseas and just about everyone I spoke to asked me what was up with Rob Ford. I am so embarrassed to be from Ontario right now.

I wish we had intelligent, compassionate, upright, hard working individuals leading our public institutions here. If a mayor behaves like a bully he should be reprimanded. Just like police - those with control over many many lives need to be held to a higher standard or we may all suffer significantly over time.

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By Mal (anonymous) | Posted November 14, 2013 at 09:01:49

The thinking that inform's Basse's argument strikes me as a variant on the "Geez, can't you take a joke?" variety of racism/sexism/harrassment. Why even bother with a code of conduct if you're just going to wad it up and fling it across Council Chambers?

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By Edward Graydon (anonymous) | Posted November 14, 2013 at 09:30:29

Common direction as to what is wanted for this city would in my opinion help move this council forward. I really do believe that Bob Brattina has a problem dealing with what most consider normal due process regarding conversation needed to reach targeted goals for the city.

Before the election I was on more than one occassion brushed aside in a abrupt manner that did not warrent this action. To criticize Bob on any matter, even if it is warranted and without malise will be recieved with a stern glare. I was close to Bob during the Mayoral debates and I believe he was elected by ,if not lying to the voter ? than under a false pretence.

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By Appropriately Bratina (anonymous) | Posted November 14, 2013 at 13:46:37

"The Mayor's tone and comments to the City Manager at the Council Meeting of April 24, 2013 were not appropriate."

Stadium Flip-Flop, Peggygate, 2 Integrity Commission Investigations, Official censure by his council colleagues, Stripped of his ability to speak on behalf of Hamilton, Continued LRT lies, Police Board fiasco, Harassment complaints. Mr Mayor, your time is up.

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By Steve (registered) | Posted November 14, 2013 at 13:49:07

Yeah, I'm going to believe he bullied Murray because Sam Merulla says it was bullying.

I've been bullied at work and that didn't look anything a bullying moment. It looked like a 'WTF' one-sided conversation to me.

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By WRCU2 (registered) - website | Posted November 15, 2013 at 07:58:56

"The only thing that saves us from the bureaucracy is its inefficiency." --Eugene McCarthy

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By Ted Mitchell (registered) | Posted November 15, 2013 at 11:05:13

Point taken, but on the Rob Ford scale of bullying, this is a 1.5/10

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By BoBra (anonymous) | Posted November 15, 2013 at 11:11:15

I can't decide whether Bratina is inappropriate or just ineffective as Mayor (or both). He does/says all sorts of inappropriate things which really sends the wrong message about Hamilton to our neighbours,

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By Bob Ford (anonymous) | Posted November 15, 2013 at 11:18:55 in reply to Comment 94766

He's Rob Ford without the crack!

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By SCRAP (anonymous) | Posted November 16, 2013 at 20:37:02

Well, was it bullying or an anger management moment? I have been bullied, like a so called learned Doctor getting in my fact to tell me to shut up at a public meeting becuase this so called learned Doctor disagrees with my political views. How come this learned Doctor sits on city committees, eh?

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By Today (anonymous) | Posted November 17, 2013 at 20:52:32

Okay, I see your point.

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