The new chair of Hamilton’s police services board says the board wants to be as transparent as it can be for members of the public.
Coun. Bernie Morelli, a long-time board member and former chair, was re-elected to the post Tuesday night. After an agenda dominated by discussion of public accountability, Morelli said it’s important to the board to have an open door.
“We want to be as transparent as I think we can be given the nature of the business we’re involved in,” said Morelli, a city councillor representing Ward 3. “This whole issue of transparency is a very key objective.”
As new chair, Morelli fills a role vacated by Mayor Bob Bratina, who resigned on Sept. 18. Bratina cited a conflict of interest between speaking freely as mayor and what he was allowed to say as a member of the board.
Transparency was an overarching theme at Tuesday’s meeting, which was held for the first time at city hall council chambers. Traditionally, meetings are held in a cramped room at Hamilton Police Services headquarters at 155 King William. The board will hold meetings at the council chambers for the rest of the year to allow more members of the public to attend.
Board members voted Tuesday to examine the possibility of making Chief Glenn De Caire’s reports on shooting deaths by police officers public. De Caire reports to the board within 30 days of a Special Investigations Unit investigation into police use of force incident, but the reports have always been kept under wraps.
Under the current Police Services Act, the board can make them public. Staff will report back to the board with a legal opinion.
Board members also voted to look at a policy surrounding corporate donations after a complaint from the Hamilton 350 Committee regarding a $30,000 grant from Enbridge. It will also investigate posting the actual budget figures — not just the estimates — online.
The meeting also marked the return of Coun. Terry Whitehead, who was suspended for four months while his behaviour as a board member was investigated by the Ontario Civilian Police Commission. The reason for the investigation has never been made public, nor would a commission spokesperson explain what is involved in such investigations.
Whitehead initiated not only the study into corporate donations, but putting the budget actuals online.
“It behooves us to ensure we’re open and transparent,” he said.