Politics

Bratina Issues Meta-Apology for HR Statement

By Ryan McGreal
Published December 13, 2011

Just when you thought it couldn't get any more silly, Mayor Bob Bratina managed to issue yet another meta-apology for his statement last Tuesday indicating that Human Resources had issued the $30,000 pay raise to Peggy Chapman, the mayor's chief of staff.

In an email sent this morning to Council and senior staff, including HR director Helen Hale Tomasik, Bratina wrote, "my comments were not well-worded and taken to mean unintentionally that the H.R. department initiated or directed the higher salary. For this, I take full responsibility."

He concluded: "I also apologize for any misunderstanding or discomfort caused by my words to the Human Resources staff, members of Council and the community."

Bratina had originally stated, "HR reviewed Peggy's employment status and found that she was vastly undercompensated based on job description and history. I didn't give a raise, she didn't ask for a raise."

Council met in camera on Thursday to consider whether the matter warranted a formal censure against the mayor for violating the Council Code of Conduct. They deferrred a decision until today, when they would have a chance to question Bratina directly.

On Friday, Bratina issued a statement in which he expressed "regret" for "any negative inference that my comments may have created" and called the incident an "unfortunate distraction".

So will today's statement satisfy Council's desire for the mayor to apologize? On Saturday, Councillor Terry Whitehead told the Spectator:

At the end of the day, the mayor used staff as a smokescreen for his own decision. That's not only not leadership, but that is, in fact, not taking responsibility for your own actions. I don't think anyone on this council believes that those comments - misleading the general public and the media - were unintentional.

Yet today's statement maintains that his original words were "unintentional". He apologized, but his apology was for using words that others might misunderstand.

Here is today's full statement:

I met personally with Helen Hale Tomasik yesterday, and this morning over the phone to personally and directly apologize to her. I also read to her the following statement which I am now forwarding to you, members of City Council.

"I recently answered a reporter's question about a pay increase to my chief of staff. The statement I made was very brief, with the intention of protecting the privacy of my employee as required by employment law.

Unfortunately my comments were not well-worded and taken to mean unintentionally that the H.R. department initiated or directed the higher salary. For this I take full responsibility.

This is not the practice of the department, and it was not the intent of my brief response to the reporter to suggest this. However since my statement caused discomfort I asked to meet with the director of Human Resources, and expressed to her my regret and made a personal apology.

I also apologize for any misunderstanding or discomfort caused by my words to the Human Resources staff, members of Council and the community."

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

43 Comments

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By platform schmatform (anonymous) | Posted December 13, 2011 at 11:07:28

don't you get it?

He is shmo shmorry and he'll shnever let it happen again!

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By Bimbo the Birthday Clown (anonymous) | Posted December 13, 2011 at 11:11:03

City Hall of Mirrors!

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By MikeBelmore (registered) | Posted December 13, 2011 at 11:13:55

It was an apology for a "misunderstanding", when an apology for a misdeed was called for. He wasn't "misunderstood", he lied about his actions and he tried to place blame for his decisions on a public servant. It was deplorable behaviour for a Mayor (or anyone).

An apology that chalks it all up to "misunderstanding" suggests Bratina is blameless, or worse, puts the onus on those who "misunderstood" him. Worse than no apology at all in my opinion. This wasn't a communications problem; it was an integrity problem.

Bratina has an integrity problem. Now, so does Council.

Council let Bratina off the disciplinary hook once after the all-day GO v. LRT debacle. He learned nothing. Neither has Council.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted December 13, 2011 at 12:57:44 in reply to Comment 72202

So further to your excellent comments...

What does it fall on residents to do now?

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By Miss Deeds (anonymous) | Posted December 13, 2011 at 11:23:03 in reply to Comment 72202

>> It was an apology for a "misunderstanding", when an apology for a misdeed was called for.

Yes, just that. Very well stated!

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By z jones (registered) | Posted December 13, 2011 at 11:16:54 in reply to Comment 72202

He learned nothing.

Oh he learned something alright. He learned he can get away with whatever he wants as long as he sweet talks his way out of it.

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By synxer (registered) | Posted December 15, 2011 at 02:35:22 in reply to Comment 72204

Which would be great if he could even sweet talk his way out of it. It's amateur hour. No methodical process whatsoever. Just one bumbling misstep after another.

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By Disappointed (anonymous) | Posted December 13, 2011 at 11:14:15

The Mayor has no integrity. There was no grey area that would leave an opening for either of his statements (Friday's or today's) to be interpreted as genuine. The fact that it took him a week to even get to this insulting admission of half-guilt is deplorable. He's now trying to hide behind 'employment law' and his poor wording, an even weaker position.

He lied. Council has allowed him to weasel out of it. End of story. I realize pursuing this further would plunge us into a rocky future, but I don't get any sense that Bratina appreciates the damage he's done and I don't think Council's future is bright enough to warrant that much protection.

Bet: By mid-January we'll all be furious with him for some other 'not well-worded' comment in the media. I'm only giving him that long because he's unlikely to get in trouble during the Christmas break. Here's hoping.

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By RightSaidFred (registered) | Posted December 13, 2011 at 12:07:31 in reply to Comment 72203

". I realize pursuing this further would plunge us into a rocky future"

Council's inaction on this because it has dragged on long enough is exactly what his Bobness wants and again he will get away with yet another misleading statement that this time was an outright lie.

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 13, 2011 at 11:17:38 in reply to Comment 72203

My money is on the annual New Years Levee...unless Peggy is screening at the door with a brief 37 question admission quiz. Or perhaps they should force all entrants to read an entire edition of the Bay Observer before being allowed in. That'll whittle the crowd down.

Comment edited by jason on 2011-12-13 11:18:57

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By mrgrande (registered) | Posted December 13, 2011 at 11:30:53

I also asked the mayor if he would have done anything differently if he had the chance. He said he wouldn't have talked to media. #HamOnt

http://twitter.com/#!/EmmaatTheSpec/status/146626020567564288

That's it, Bob. Blame the media. Again.

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By Samizdad (anonymous) | Posted December 13, 2011 at 17:50:20 in reply to Comment 72207

Perfect. Another regret. This is going fractal!

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By keeping his mouth shut (anonymous) | Posted December 13, 2011 at 11:37:28 in reply to Comment 72207

insult spam from banned user deleted

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By JoeyColeman (registered) - website | Posted December 13, 2011 at 11:39:46

My distinction as the only person called a liar in front of City Council remains!

Bratina did no wrong, just a misunderstanding.

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By Conrad66 (registered) | Posted December 13, 2011 at 13:03:31 in reply to Comment 72210

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

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By seancb (registered) - website | Posted December 13, 2011 at 17:40:34 in reply to Comment 72223

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By whoosh (anonymous) | Posted December 13, 2011 at 13:07:38 in reply to Comment 72223

whoooosh

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By Bobby1 (anonymous) | Posted December 13, 2011 at 12:45:30

Some thing wrong,when Joey Coleman can be called a liar (which he is not) in front of Council,yet our Mayor,pulls this recent deception without a word so far from Council! Continued silence by Council will lower the bar down for all of them to the lowest denominator among the sixteen! Everyone can make a mistake but by definition "a mistake is unintentional",Council needs to make a judgement! Intentional or unintentional? One should lead to censure,the other should lead to acceptance of opology!

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By H+H (registered) - website | Posted December 13, 2011 at 12:48:00

@MikeBelmore

Perfect. Simply and utterly perfect.

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By Conrad66 (registered) | Posted December 13, 2011 at 12:53:35

All i want to know is how can we VOTE a mayor out of office after just 1 year in office ... or should the pls in Hamilton Occupie the City Hall untill Bob leaves office

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted December 13, 2011 at 13:21:20 in reply to Comment 72219

All i want to know is how can we VOTE a mayor out of office after just 1 year in office

We can't. We don't have this provision in Ontario. And I'm not even sure that we should.

or should the pls in Hamilton Occupie the City Hall untill Bob leaves office

Um... No.

I fear that at some point, we're all collectively going to have to 'put up or shut up' when it comes to 'What do we do now?!?'

So much clamouring for censure, for a slap on the wrist...for a resignation?

Does it make any sense to anyone that there might be merit in gaining a better understanding of what really and truly brought us here instead of focusing on something that, other then possibly indicating a bigger problem within the person's makeup, is a colossal waste of time, and actually contributes in tangible ways to our 'legacy malaise'?

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted December 13, 2011 at 19:11:46 in reply to Comment 72225

A limit on the mayor's power I think may be called for as an appropriate punishment. HR determining that she is "Under-compensated for her work" because the mayor said so isn't a worthwhile reason.

If maybe she was under-compensated in comparison to other people in a similar position in similar municipalities, yes. If maybe she was under-compensated and we weren't in a major recession, yes. If maybe she was became the deal-maker for landing a major public works project or higher government funding, yes.

However as far as I can tell, she's getting $30,000 because she's directly serving as Bratina's own personal attack dog. Now, I will admit my characterization of the issue may be unfair. I don't have all the facts here, but if someone has some information to the contrary, now would be the time to bring it forward, and you'd think Bratina and Chapman would want to clear the air on this raise.

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 13, 2011 at 14:18:47 in reply to Comment 72225

Regardless of what else we do, identifying and condemning bad behaviour is not a waste of time, and it certainly does not preclude other important approaches we might also take to increase democratic engagement and accountability.

When bad behaviour is allowed to stand unchallenged, it establishes a precedent that changes the baseline under which representatives will operate subsequently.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted December 13, 2011 at 14:53:30 in reply to Comment 72235

Ryan, you've presented a wonderful argument for indulgent fixation. My hat is suitably doffed to you, Sir.

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By Conrad66 (registered) | Posted December 13, 2011 at 13:36:34 in reply to Comment 72225

Your problebly wright . but at 90 k she is doing alot better the ALOT of pls in Hamilton .. i do 50 k a year and im doing well but to put another 30 k please give me a break i hope Bob is thinking of the 20percent in poverty when he gave her that raise

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By IC (anonymous) | Posted December 13, 2011 at 12:58:38

Is someone asking the Integrity office to investigate?

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted December 13, 2011 at 13:27:40

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the most frustrating aspect of this interlude for me, the most consternating, the most depressing isn't what Mayor Bratina did. (And I won't get into the world class conflation of issue that the discussion manifested.)

It's the fact that so much energy has been spent on it by residents.

As if anger and vitriol and sarcasm and dismissiveness is going to change anything...

...and that this response...to show that we're enraged, and that we care, dammit!...is somehow elevating the discourse in the city.

There's no question that there's been a consistently disappointing air surrounding City Hall, and specifically our mayor. But in the overall scheme of things, if the best we can use our collective intelligence and ingenuity and resiliency for is to lambaste and catcall and otherwise pillory...then I don't despair for Hamilton because of its leadership, but because of its citizenry.

I'm sorry, but we're going to have to do better than this.

Comment edited by mystoneycreek on 2011-12-13 13:27:57

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By JC (anonymous) | Posted December 13, 2011 at 13:58:38 in reply to Comment 72228

Who's hosting the next town hall?

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By H+H (registered) - website | Posted December 13, 2011 at 14:42:37

@mystoneycreek

You know I'm a fan of yours, but I have to take issue with your constant criticism of criticism. I fear you're coming across as having seen the future and the path toward it, but won't come out and share your insights with the rest of us. Sorry, but it really does feel that way to me. Not even for a second do I question your intentions. You have proven to me and to many others that you care enough to be fully engaged. But, I'm not getting the "all of you are wasting your time thinking and writing about this when you should be......."

For me, we must do both. Lying is lying. Obfuscation is obfuscation. Bob did both. Blatantly and repeatedly. As B.F.Skinner proved, the behaviour that is rewarded is the behaviour that will be repeated. This pigeon needs to be trained, or re-trained, by Council and by citizens. I'm all for talking about bigger issues, but I think we have to deal with what's in front of us at the same time.

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By Woody10 (registered) | Posted December 14, 2011 at 09:59:43 in reply to Comment 72236

I agree H+H, we need to discuss these things to show others what s and what is not acceptable. Also, it's like saying (arguing) that if we don't build something (velodrome, stadium, LRT, for examples) that money would go to other infrastructure, which we all know doesn't happen.

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted December 13, 2011 at 14:43:31

mystoneycreek,

Is it better to wake people up and get the uninvolved involved at however an elemental level (rage, frustration, indignation, disbelief) or is it better to have the same players always involved but at a more noble level as you are very earnestly driving with your town hall initiative. I am in no way suggesting it is a one or the other proposition, I am saying that the lower forms of expression I am seeing more and more regarding Bratina serves to introduce people to the playing field of publicly expressed opinions. I personally found RTH only through the sputtering, stammering rage I felt over the West Harbour. The elemental anger that I expressed here and elsewhere awakened a beast that was dormant. I now have a higher level of civic consciousness, connectivity and engagement then I would have ever had before the WH backroom deals.

All I am saying is that there is a value in "anger and vitriol and sarcasm and dismissiveness" as it can serve as an initiation. I agree it's not quality discourse, it's up to those who have been engaged for a while to lead and direct towards more productive expressions of discontent.

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By -Hammer- (registered) | Posted December 13, 2011 at 15:05:13

Alright, fine lets assume we accept your apology Bratina. Why is she getting a $30,000 raise when we are in a recession and city money is extremely tight!

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By Borrelli (registered) | Posted December 13, 2011 at 15:27:40

Why is she getting a $30,000 raise when we are in a recession and city money is extremely tight!

Because at $~120k, she'll finally make about the same as her boss. Didn't you get the memo? Hamilton has an elected AND unelected mayor now.

Comment edited by Borrelli on 2011-12-13 15:31:13

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By mrjanitor (registered) | Posted December 13, 2011 at 17:15:29

Graham MacKay can slice through any BS served up and get to the real heart of the matter. Have a look at his most recent Bob and Peggy cartoon

Comment edited by mrjanitor on 2011-12-13 17:15:54

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By sneeringanddamage (anonymous) | Posted December 13, 2011 at 19:14:09

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By defendingreason (anonymous) | Posted December 14, 2011 at 18:46:15 in reply to Comment 72255

re sneeringanddamage above: Amazing how many RTH readers must have just moved to Hamilton and never read papers anywhere else--can't be any other explanation unless they all born yesterday. I don't get. Some of McKay's stuff has been appalling, over last decade--and maybe the same RTH readers never saw Dreschel at his frequent worst. An RTH-er in last few days called him a gossip-monger with a telephone. You got that right.

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By GrapeApe (registered) | Posted December 14, 2011 at 00:22:33

As a chess player, I find it odd the king hasn't chosen to protect himself by throwing his rook in the path ("castling"). Perhaps the king is too busy protecting himself to see he's about to lose his rook.

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By Woody10 (registered) | Posted December 14, 2011 at 10:24:53

I would have preferred that he hire a part time employee to assist PC for that money. At least hat would give someone else some work. Or maybe not.

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By Sine Qua Non (anonymous) | Posted December 14, 2011 at 10:29:49

Collins takes the mayor's talking points on rapid transit ("we're not hearing any clamour from the public on that file")...

"it's up to the community to decide whethr this issue warrants Intgrty Commish involvemnt"

http://twitter.com/#!/Collins_Ward5/status/146747801739591681

... because of course Council isn't in a position to define or evaluate abstracts like "integrity".

"If somebody wants to stand up and be the champion of integrity, please go ahead. I'm going to be the champion of posturing."

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By Mirror Man (anonymous) | Posted December 14, 2011 at 15:30:42

“I was surprised that the matter had begun circulating to the media. So it was obviously leaked by somebody.”

However, Bratina acknowledges that news of Chapman’s raise was first distributed by his office.

http://www.thespec.com/news/local/article/638553--mayor-apologizes-for-misunderstanding-on-pay-hike

Everything you need to know about this story, in a nutshell.

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By Conrad66 (registered) | Posted December 15, 2011 at 08:17:09

450,000 in surplus and they can`t even give a silly extra 5,000 for the Velodrome ???????????

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 15, 2011 at 08:35:13 in reply to Comment 72292

They were looking for an extra $5 million, not an extra $5 thousand.

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By Conrad66 (registered) | Posted December 15, 2011 at 08:56:27 in reply to Comment 72293

Opps your wright thanks .. lol

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