City employee has been harassing a councillor, mayor says

In a puzzling moment at city hall Monday, Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina revealed that an employee has been harassing a city councillor. The city manager says it was more of a "behavioural matter."
Mayor Bob Bratina says a city staffer has harassed an elected official. (Terry Asma/CBC)

In a puzzling moment at city hall Monday, Mayor Bob Bratina revealed that an employee has been harassing a city councillor. But the city manager says it was more of a "behavioural matter" that wouldn't require investigation.

Bratina wouldn’t say when the two incidents happened, the nature of them or who was involved. But in a surprise revelation during a meeting Monday, the mayor said an elected official has been harassed.

“There were two occasions when I believe the harassment policy was violated by a member of staff toward an elected official,” he said.

The first time resulted in an apology, he said. The second did not.

It was news to city manager Chris Murray, who said he was surprised to hear about it. He spoke to the mayor after and told CBC Hamilton that neither incident falls under the city's newly revamped harassment policy.

"It’s been dealt with and it doesn’t qualify as discriminatory or harassment as laid out in the policy," he said.

"But certainly we agree they were behavioural matters."

Both incidents have been dealt with "to the satisfaction of the parties involved," he said.

"We’re here to build a relationship with council that’s bounded on respect," he said. "The incidents I’m referring to, I wouldn’t consider them to be respectful."

He wouldn't elaborate on details, but said it was not a matter of sexual harassment.

When quizzed by media, the mayor wouldn’t elaborate on if these were recent events. 

“I’m not going to say anything more about them,” Bratina said. “I’m just working on a go-forward basis.”

Murray said they had happened in the last four years. Several councillors on Monday said they were unaware of the incidents Bratina mentioned. 

"I’m not sure what he’s talking about, but councillors get harassed all the time by people out in the community and sometimes other councillors," said Coun. Brad Clark of Stoney Creek. 

The city’s audit, finance and administration committee approved a new harassment policy on Monday, which states that the city can fire any employee found guilty of harassment without pay.

Harassment has been an issue in the past year. In 2013, the Ontario Human Rights Commission awarded a female HSR employee $25,000 after she was harassed for years by a male supervisor. The male supervisor was dismissed with a $200,000 severance, the commission decision said.

The new policy, Murray said, is "a step forward to improving the environment we're all working in."

The supervisor was then hired by Guelph Transit with the help of positive recommendations from HSR supervisors. Murray pledged to investigate it.

Murray will report back in the spring.


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