The city of Hamilton is keeping mum over a reported scandal involving a city employee fired after having sex with a prostitute in a work vehicle during his shift.

City manager Chris Murray would not confirm or deny the reports Wednesday, saying it was a personnel matter. But if it did happen, the city would take it seriously, he said.

“We are concerned about public confidence every day we show up to work,” Murray told reporters. “Our job is to make certain that people have trust and confidence in how our service is provided.”

Local media reported Wednesday that an area resident spotted a city worker having sex with a prostitute in the Barton Street area sometime in August.

The public works employee was terminated with cause, the Hamilton Spectator reported. It cited a source that said the employee and the sex worker were captured by a store video camera.

It’s the latest in a scandal-plagued year for the city, which has faced a sexual harassment charge in its transit department, an alleged employee theft of more than $1 million over nine years and the firing of 22 city road workers for allegations that included the sale of city asphalt and time theft.

The city is working hard to improve its corporate culture, and to send the message that such acts are not acceptable, Murray said. He’ll drive home the message during a meeting with 600 city supervisors and managers on Friday.

“I have an organization of 7,200 employees,” he said. “There are going to be times when things are going to happen that we’re going to have to deal with.”

'You’re supposed to get a room for that on your own time, not do it in a public place in a city-owned vehicle...If it happened, it’s unacceptable behaviour.' —Councillor Lloyd Ferguson

The incident was discussed behind closed doors at a general issues committee meeting Wednesday. Coun. Lloyd Ferguson of Ancaster said he was concerned about the new allegation. 

“You’re supposed to get a room for that on your own time, not do it in a public place in a city-owned vehicle,” he said. “If it happened, it’s unacceptable behaviour and it needs to be dealt with swiftly.”

Ferguson doesn’t worry about loss of public confidence in the city.

“The public appreciates that we’re finally getting a read on these things,” he said.

“The easiest thing for senior staff to do is ignore it and sweep it under the carpet. But [Murray] seems committed to fixing the culture problem in this organization so we’re sending a fairly clear message that this behaviour is not going to be tolerated.”

An HSR manager was dismissed without cause last August in a sexual harassment case against a female employee. An arbitrator’s report in September said the manager had received a severance of about $200,000, although Murray says it was substantially less. The report also cited a poisoned work culture, and awarded the female employee $25,000.

Police are still investigating the case of a city worker who was dismissed in connection with more than $1 million that had gone missing from city coffers over a nine-year period.  

No charges have been laid.