Hamilton city councillor Lloyd Ferguson apologized Thursday morning for shoving journalist Joey Coleman after a tense council meeting Wednesday night.
Coleman explained the incident in this blog post on his website. He says it happened around 10:45 p.m., when he was following the city’s corporate communications manager to a press conference about the city’s new lease deal with the Ticats.
Ward 9 Coun. Brad Clark stopped the manager for a conversation, and Coleman says he was standing about three metres away, holding his camera.
Then from behind him, Coleman says, the “visibly agitated” Ferguson walked in front of him, saying he needed to talk to either the manager or Coun. Clark.
“Immediately, Ferguson looked at me and aggressively told me to get away from the area. Before I had a chance to move, Ferguson turned around, strongly clenched my upper right arm and shoved me with force,” Coleman wrote on his website.
“He did not let go of his grip, continuing to clench me and strengthening his grip as he very angrily stated with a threatening tone that I wasn’t welcome to stand where I had been, stating further that he didn’t want me eavesdropping upon his conversation, looking at my camera.”
'We know that we have a poisonous atmosphere here at city hall. It's been brought it up before in council.' - Joey Coleman, journalist
Coleman says his camera was turned off, and he was just carrying it to the scheduled press conference. The two had a “heated” exchange before Clark intervened.
Thursday morning, Ferguson apologized at city hall.
"Following a very heated council debate as all of you know, I left council to speak with staff and a fellow councillor on a confidential matter,” Ferguson said. “Mr. Coleman was standing behind us. I asked Mr. Coleman to step back. I tried to move Mr. Coleman out of the way.
“It was unacceptable and I apologize to Mr. Coleman, members of council and the public for my actions."
Coleman says he accepts the apology and considers the matter closed. "He's shown himself to be a person of integrity and honour and we all make mistakes,” he said. “I know I'm going to make mistakes in the future.”
The incident speaks to a “culture problem” at Hamilton City Hall, Coleman says. “We know that we have a poisonous atmosphere here at city hall. It's been brought it up before in council,” he said.
“We've had these matters occur before in council and I think that we as a city need to have a discussion about how we do our civic politics that it can get that tense, that a person can get that agitated by what's happening at city hall that an incident like this occurs out of frustration."