Special Report: Integrity Commissioner

Integrity Commissioner Should Resign Immediately

The report on Councillor Ferguson's assault tells the public that legitimate complaints about abuse of power will not be taken seriously.

By Adrienne Havercroft
Published February 27, 2015

I write in regards to the Integrity Commissioner's report respecting the incident at City Hall between journalist Joey Coleman and Councillor Lloyd Ferguson. After reading the report, I find it completely unacceptable, and I think that integrity commissioner Earl Basse should resign immediately.

Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin gives the Integrity Commissioner's report a failing grade (Image Credit: Andre Marin)
Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin gives the Integrity Commissioner's report a failing grade (Image Credit: Andre Marin)

The report shows clear signs of bias, which calls into question the integrity of his entire office and due process at City Hall.

To be blunt, the report reads like a rape apology. In the same way that it is inappropriate to ask women who reports rape "what she was wearing" and "how much she was drinking", Mr. Coleman's history at City Hall, what Mr. Ferguson assumed his intentions were and the amount of time he waited to file his complaint should have no bearing on its legitimacy.

In the same way, the idea that Councilllor Ferguson's "long and contentious day" in any way mitigates the seriousness of the accusations are farcical.

While I can understand that these are the kinds of contextual details that might come out over the course of an investigation, their inclusion in the report as relevant details in the context of the complaint is alarming.

In the words of Andrew Dreschel in today's Spectator column, their inclusion "adds a disquieting bias to the findings."

No Victim Interview

Furthermore, I find it unsettling that Mr. Basse did not choose to interview either Joey Coleman, the alleged victim, or former Councillor Brad Clark, who also witnessed the event.

Privileging Councillor Ferguson's version of the narrative over the alleged victim reeks of "old boys" politicking, where those in power are able to circumvent due process by appealing to friends in high places.

It creates the appearance of collusion, which, particularly as it is coming from of the Integrity Commissioner's office, undermines public trust.

Council Should Not Have Accepted Report

Finally, I would also like to express my disappointment in Council's acceptance of this report, with the exception of Councillors Matthew Green and Scott Duvall. This was clearly a biased and fundamentally flawed report and should never have been accepted as the final word on this incident.

Even a very cursory read of it should have indicated that to council members. By voting to accept the report, council affirmed that the investigation represents acceptable due process in our city. As a citizen, I find this both unacceptable and disappointing.

Personally, my concern in this matter is less about what the appropriate consequences should be for Councillor Ferguson in this particular incident (not to say that their shouldn't be consequences, but that I don't feel equipped to comment on what they should be), but what the process surrounding this incident indicates about the checks and balances we have in place at City Hall.

Loss of Faith in Fair Process

A properly functioning and healthy democracy must ensure that if and when those in positions of power act inappropriately, there are legitimate and trustworthy channels available to the public to deal with the issue in a fair and unbiased way.

Based on this incident, the public has no reason to have faith in these official channels. This report and its ratification by Council will discourage others from coming forward in the future to report abuses.

It tells them that their complaints won't be taken seriously, that the alleged perpetrator's version of the events are more trustworthy than the alleged victim, and that the alleged victim's character and history will be scrutinized and critiqued in order undermine the credibility of their claims.

What a sad state of affairs. Shame on you, Hamilton City Council.

Adrienne Havercroft is a Ward 2 resident, HWDSB teacher, licensed Realtor, wife, and mother to two cats, taking time out of her busy schedule to be an actively engaged citizen.

22 Comments

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By tear tattoo (anonymous) | Posted February 27, 2015 at 15:25:42

This type of action from our city leaders makes me sad and worried. M. Green and S. Duvall, I see you, #respect.

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By Ugh (anonymous) | Posted February 27, 2015 at 15:35:19

Hamilton is run by a bunch of evil reckless tyrants, its organized crime. The few good councilors are just smoke and mirrors.

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By drb (registered) - website | Posted February 27, 2015 at 15:39:14

By covering up for a colleague this council is running the risk of losing the moral authority to lead. Trust is earned.

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By Stever (anonymous) | Posted February 27, 2015 at 15:57:02

I gave up on the IC year's ago. He's been slow and ineffectual.

Also, correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that Ferguson sat (sits) on the committee that overseas and renews the IC's contract. How's that for a conflict of interest...

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By drb (registered) - website | Posted February 27, 2015 at 16:11:55 in reply to Comment 109795

You are not wrong. He does in fact sit on that committee.

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By Laughable (anonymous) | Posted February 27, 2015 at 16:10:45

Ontario ombudsman's office is a joke. Where was there oversight on a million other scandals (e.g. King St. TOL, Orange, gas plants, etc. etc.)?! Another approach with no teeth.

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted February 28, 2015 at 12:47:03 in reply to Comment 109797

ombudsman.on.ca/About-Us/Who-We-Oversee/MUSH-Sector.aspx
ombudsman.on.ca/Make-A-Complaint.aspx

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By some days (anonymous) | Posted February 27, 2015 at 16:24:09

some days anon postings hit by non-spam spam notice, arbitrarily, and some days normal language is accepted.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted February 27, 2015 at 22:30:37 in reply to Comment 109801

The anonymous spam filter is deterministic and is generated based on actual spam comments. As always, if you register an account your comments are not filtered.

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By RobF (registered) | Posted February 27, 2015 at 17:09:05

Sad state of affairs at City Hall these days ... you just can't make this stuff up. It's beyond an embarrassment. It's corrosive to the public trust. Glad to have the provincial Ombudsman weight in on the obvious problem with this IC report. This isn't the first IC report in recent years to raise eyebrows.

Comment edited by RobF on 2015-02-27 17:09:19

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By KD (anonymous) | Posted February 27, 2015 at 21:10:56

Yeah but what was Joey wearing that night? His chest does look very push-able in a knit sweater.

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By KevinLove (registered) | Posted February 27, 2015 at 21:40:52

I see from the Spec:

Basse has said he didn't need to interview Coleman because the journalist described the incident in a blog.

Really? Seriously? That's your reason for not investigating? That is just so amateurish.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted March 03, 2015 at 00:49:02 in reply to Comment 109807

Are you kidding me?! That's like saying "I didn't need to confirm that bat boy exists, because his picture is on the front page of national inquirer"

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By highwater (registered) | Posted February 28, 2015 at 17:57:46 in reply to Comment 109807

Nice to know the majority of councillors agree with the idea that something written in a blog is irrefutable evidence!

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By rgelder@cogeco.ca (registered) - website | Posted February 28, 2015 at 22:55:30

Seems as though some Councillors might be listening, and committed to "righting the wrong". Restez à l'écoute.

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By LOL_all_over_again (registered) | Posted February 28, 2015 at 23:53:48

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

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By unirregardless (anonymous) | Posted March 01, 2015 at 03:05:49 in reply to Comment 109820

unirregardless of the universe, LOL-ALL-OVER-AGAIN isn't captain of it yet!!! fake words FTW!

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By Noted (anonymous) | Posted March 01, 2015 at 10:30:50

"municipalities... (have) been beyond the scrutiny of the Ontario Ombudsman since the office was created in 1975."

ombudsman.on.ca/Files/sitemedia/Documents/MUSHMar6-Backgrounder-EN.pdf

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By Truth (anonymous) | Posted March 01, 2015 at 18:44:11

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By Equivalence (anonymous) | Posted March 01, 2015 at 20:44:08 in reply to Comment 109830

Yeah, informally surveying your constituents IS just as bad as assaulting someone. :P

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By Fred Street (anonymous) | Posted March 01, 2015 at 23:57:20

Sanctions or no sanctions, Sam Merulla wants city council to rescind fellow councillor Lloyd Ferguson's appointment to the Hamilton Police Services Board.

Merulla issued a notice of motion Sunday, seeking a second opinion on a report released last week by the city's integrity commissioner, Earl Basse, into a pushing incident involving Ferguson at City Hall last year.

In the report, Basse determined Ferguson had violated council's code of conduct when he pushed independent journalist Joey Coleman.

Merulla calls it "outrageous" that the integrity commissioner didn't recommend sanctions against Ferguson.

He'd also like a "third party police service such as the Ontario Provincial Police" to investigate the matter.

In the meantime, he'd like to see Ferguson — who is chair of the police board — step down as chair of the board.

"Anyone that admits assault I don't think is deserving of being on the police board," Merulla said Sunday, referring to Ferguson's apology the day after the incident.

thespec.com/news-story/5454458-merulla-won-t-let-pushing-incident-go/

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By Stever (anonymous) | Posted March 02, 2015 at 12:32:40 in reply to Comment 109832

Merulla is playing politics to get his choice, Chad Collins on the Police Services Board.

This is clearly what is happening as Merulla hasn't issued a notice of motion for have Ferguson removed from the Governance Review sub-Committee which chooses the Integrity Commissioner.

I guess the Governance Review sub-Committee is as in-demand, or important, as the Police Services Board.

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