A tense exchange between councillors planted a bump in an otherwise smooth political coronation at Hamilton city hall.
- Related: Bob Morrow, former Hamilton mayor, poised to replace Morelli in Ward 3
- Related: Should Bob Morrow be appointed as Ward 3 councillor?
In a special meeting on Friday morning, Hamilton city council voted 11-1 to appoint former mayor Bob Morrow as councillor for Ward 3, a seat left vacant when Bernie Morelli died in January.
The meeting took less than 10 minutes. But unlike the vote at the city’s general issues committee on Wednesday, which sent the motion to council, the decision was not unanimous.
Ward 9 Coun. Brad Clark — who had voted reluctantly for Morrow’s immediate appointment two days earlier — became the lone dissenting voice.
“I made a mistake and it won’t happen again,” he said in a stern speech to council. “For a moment, I acquiesced to a clear majority.”
Clark later told reporters the reasons for his change of heart. He said he has "nothing against" Morrow, but would have preferred that council conduct formal consultations with Ward 3 residents, interview applications and select the best candidate. The process, he said, could be undertaken in a total of two weeks.
“I just can’t get over the fact that [council's] vision states we’re supposed to engage the city and we’ve been doing a wonderful job,” Clark told reporters. “But to not engage the citizens of Ward 3 is a huge mistake. It’s a slap in the face.”
Ward 4 Coun. Sam Merulla, a longtime friend and ally of Morelli’s, slammed Clark for changing his vote and for questioning the integrity of the appointment process.
“Brad Clark says one thing the other day, voted one way the other day. He’s the only one who can answer or be accountable to his duplicity,” Merulla said to reporters.
“It really is a pathetic, sad state of affairs that, in death, you can’t honour somebody in a manner that’s conducive and respectful.”
Responding to Merulla calling him “duplicitous” during the meeting, Clark said: “I’m congratulating him on learning a multiple-syllable word.”
Morrow vows not to run in October election
Morrow, who served as the chief magistrate of pre-amalgamation Hamilton between 1982 and 2000, has said he will only serve on council until the end of the current term. He has vowed not to enter as candidate in the October election.
On Friday, a city clerk said she had received a formal letter from Morrow confirming his intention not to run.
Merulla also defended Morrow’s speedy appointment. “I can assure you that the vast majority of the city recognizes that the decision is a sound one and is in the best interest for the people of Ward 3. And that way, we can get down to business allow Bernie to rest in peace and allow the election to decide in October who will replace him.”
- Related: Coun. Bernie Morelli has died after long illness
- Related: Name recreation centre after Bernie Morelli, councillors say
Councillor for Ward 3 since 1991, Morelli died on Jan. 14 after a long illness.
Members of his family were in attendance for the special meeting on Friday, but did not comment to the media.
Councillors also voted to appoint Ward 5 Coun. Chad Collins to fill Morelli’s seat on the police services board.