The city has not decided if it will replace the 29 public works employees whose dismissals were announced this week, according to the senior director of the public works department.

'The speculation that's taking place is inappropriate. —Gerry Davis, City of Hamilton

At a city council general issues committee meeting Wednesday, Gerry Davis told councillors that the decision had not yet been made.

His testimony contradicts previous media reports claiming the city had chosen not to fill the vacancies.

"The speculation that's taking place is inappropriate," Davis said.  

On Monday, city manager Chris Murray announced the dismissal of 29 road crew workers, and the suspension of two others, for "theft of time "and "breach of trust."

"We had a couple of examples of when they were busting a half an hour per day, which is blatantly unacceptable," councillor Lloyd Ferguson, who chairs council's public works committee, told CBC Hamilton on Monday.

"We've got to get value for the taxpayers' dollar and we're providing value, so they lost their jobs over it."

'We're a council, not a council of one.'

The discourse surrounding the firings inspired a tense exchange at the committee meeting, during which the city's public works department asked for a 6.2 per cent budget increase for 2013.

Without addressing Ferguson by name, Ward 9 councillor Brad Clark accused the public works committee chair of speaking too liberally about the dismissals while an investigation is still ongoing.

"It's a private issue and it's inappropriate to comment," said Clark, who added he thought councillors had agreed to remain tight-lipped until staff complete their investigation.

"We're a council, not a council of one."

Councillors Terry Whitehead and Scott Duvall echoed Clark's position, stating that commenting prematurely about the dismissals is insensitive and could damage the city's position should the issue go to labour arbitration.

"There may be workers who are not going," said Whitehead, who represents Ward 8. "That's a process that's still underway,"

Speaking with CBC Hamilton on Wednesday, Ferguson dismissed his colleagues' criticism, adding that some comments he's made to the media — particularly pertaining to the issue of whether the all the fired workers' jobs will be filled — have been taken out of context.

"That's democracy — we don't always agree," he said. "I'll always answer questions truthfully and I'll never apologize for trying to get the message out to employees that the value of honesty is critical to us."