Ferguson will finally join Hamilton's police services board

After a few days of confusion, Coun. Lloyd Ferguson is officially a temporary member of Hamilton's police services board. And fellow councillor Sam Merulla wants an apology.

Merulla wants apology from police board for calling appointment 'unlawful'

After days of confusion, Coun. Lloyd Ferguson is officially a temporary member of Hamilton's police services board. And fellow councillor Sam Merulla wants an apology from the board.

City council voted June 12 to have Ferguson sit as a temporary board member for Hamilton Police Service. But the board countered that the appointment was unlawful according to an opinion from Ontario's Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services.

The city learned on Wednesday that Ferguson's appointment is legal. Now Merulla, who nominated Ferguson, wants the board to say it's sorry for using the word "unlawful" in correspondence and local media.

"They've acknowledged we were right," Merulla said. "Now all they need to do is come out and say council was right, we apologize and we retract the word unlawful."

Merulla will introduce the request as a correspondence item at the council meeting at 5 p.m.

Ferguson was appointed in light of the suspension of Coun. Terry Whitehead, the current official board member. Whitehead has said that he isn't sure why he was suspended, but suspects it was because of some tense moments at the board table, and between him and Chief Glenn De Caire. The Ontario Civilian Police Commission is investigating Whitehead's conduct.

The past few days have seen correspondence between the city and the board. The city's legal opinion has been that the appointment is lawful, said Ron Sabo, assistant city solicitor. The city learned Wednesday that the board accepted the appointment.

Under the Legislation Act, Sabo said, the city can appoint a temporary member to ensure that the duties of that public office are carried out, Sabo said.

"The issue essentially is resolved at this point and we're moving forward."

Ferguson is pleased with the end result, but was also upset by the use of the word "unlawful." He supports Merulla's call for an apology.

"That's my reputation they're playing with," he said. "Even though it wasn't personal, perception is reality in our line of work. It wasn't an appropriate word to use."

Despite the confusion, Ferguson said he looks forward to being at the board table.

"I intend to show up and do the job."

CBC Hamilton has not yet reached police board chair Nancy DiGregorio.

It's been a tense year between city council and the police services board. First, they faced off over a budget increase. Other issues have included Whitehead's suspension and a previous motion by Merulla asking for the city to gain total control over the police.

Merulla doesn't feel like his correspondence will exacerbate the situation.

"They've acknowledged we were right," he said.

"I'm glad we can move forward and focus on governance rather than drama."

Earlier this month, an advisor from the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services may have used the words "not lawful" in communication with the board, says a report for council Wednesday from city solicitor Janice-Atwood Petkovski.

More recent responses use the phrase "arguably not authorized by the Police Services Act."