Despite a fall announcement that he’ll retire, and a consultant already searching for a replacement, Chief Glenn De Caire will stay on as chief of Hamilton Police Services. And it's a move some say looks like a "slippery slope" to the community.
The police services board voted Monday to accept De Caire’s letter withdrawing his retirement, which means his contract, set to expire on Dec. 31, will be renewed.
It was a tight vote during the closed door session, which went on for about two hours on Monday. While members wouldn't confirm the final vote, three of the seven members — Coun. Chad Collins, Coun. Terry Whitehead and Walt Juchniewicz — voted against it.
'There’s a lot of grey area here that should make people feel very uncomfortable.' - Coun. Chad Collins
Initially, a board-hired consultant spent an estimated $20,000 looking for De Caire's replacement. But the consultant will put that portion of the bill toward finding a deputy chief, said chair Lloyd Ferguson, an Ancaster councillor.
De Caire’s contract expires on Dec. 31 and will be renewed for two years, with an option for another three. Last fall, he announced his retirement. But last week, he wrote to the board saying that he is withdrawing his retirement and “offering my services to the board.”
Last fall’s decision to accept his retirement letter was also a 4-3 vote.
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De Caire says he revoked his retirement because of community members who urged him to stay. Some are prominent local business owners.
'Can't argue with results'
Ferguson insists he heard from "hundreds" of residents from all walks of life who wanted De Caire to stay, and that the "caviar club" didn't make the decision. He cited a dramatic drop in violent crime rates and the high percentage of murders solved under De Caire's watch.
"You can't argue with the results," he said.
"The process wasn’t great. I acknowledge that. What woke me up in the middle of the night is that it’s the right thing for public safety."
The board also wants De Caire to stay so the city has an experienced chief during the 2015 Pan Am Games, Ferguson said. It also wants De Caire at the helm when the police service builds a new downtown forensics facility, which is currently being designed.
But Collins said after the meeting that he worries about the perception that a small group of powerful business people can determine who the chief is.
"It almost hearkens back to the 1950s when these decisions were made over a beer at the golf course rather than the process we have in place," he said.
He worries that this kind of hiring practices might extend to how the service hires constables, or other aspects of who gets promoted.
"There’s a lot of grey area here that should make people feel very uncomfortable," said Collins, who called it "a dangerous precedent and a slippery slope."
"I don't think we fully understand why he was leaving in the first place. I'd hate to be in this position another 10 months from now, another year from now, another 18 months from now where we receive another letter because maybe another opportunity has come up elsewhere, and we're in the same position we were just a few short days ago."
He plans to bring up the issue on Wednesday when the city's general issues committee debates implementing a lobbyist registry.
Whitehead said he tried to introduce a motion during the police board meeting for a shorter contract term, but it didn't pass.