Hamilton's integrity commissioner says Mayor Bob Bratina’s comments at a heated city hall meeting were “angry,” but ruled they didn’t break council’s code of conduct.
Integrity Commissioner Earl Basse launched the investigation after receiving a complaint that the mayor bullied City Manager Chris Murray during a heated city hall meeting on April 24.
During the meeting, Bratina left his assigned area in city hall’s horseshoe-area for around 17 seconds to exchange “impassioned” words with city manager Murray, the report says.
“I can’t believe you said that! I can’t believe you said that!” Bratina told Murray — a quote confirmed by Bratina and Basse’s report.
Bratina’s comments “were not appropriate,” the report states. But they didn’t violate the code of conduct because Murray didn’t report feeling intimidated or threatened, and because other city employees in the area said they weren’t intimidated or harassed either.
The report also notes Bratina apologized to Murray shortly after the meeting.
“The City Manager advised he was surprised at the tone and content of the Mayor’s comments to him but was neither intimidated nor threatened by the exchange nor did he feel his professional reputation was injured,” Basse’s report states.
Murray could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
"Mr. Basse's investigation of the matter was thorough and complete and I accept his findings which apply to all members of Council," said Mayor Bratina in a written statement to the CBC Hamilton.
City hall meeting was ‘emotional’
During the meeting Coun. Jason Farr objected to Bratina’s treatment of Murray, criticizing the mayor for using “awful nasty” language.
Reached on Tuesday, Farr said he’d like to move on from the issue.
But Farr wasn’t the only councillor to cry foul over the mayor’s tactics at the time. Coun. Sam Merulla, who saw the exchange but didn’t hear Bratina’s remarks, also accused the mayor of bullying Murray.
“All I know is that the tone was one of aggression. In looking at (Murray's) face, he looked legitimately startled, almost fearful," said Merulla on the day of the altercation.
In his report, Basse noted the fiery, almost 2-hour long, LRT debate was “a significant emotional issue for all,” that was stoked by inaccurate comments made to the media.
Basse, a former RCMP investigator, based his conclusions on interviews with councillors who were at city hall that day as well as analysis of video.
A copy of the report has been given to all councillors and is set to be processed by the city clerk’s office on Wednesday.