A handful of city councillors want to appoint former mayor Bob Morrow to replace Coun. Bernie Morelli, who died last week. But not everyone thinks the veteran politician should be the only option.
Morrow was the longest-serving mayor of the former city of Hamilton, and is qualified for the job and respected in the community, Coun. Sam Merulla said.
Merulla plans to introduce a motion in February to appoint Morrow to the vacant Ward 3 council seat.
But at least one councillor and two of the candidates vying for the Ward 3 spot say they would rather see a number of contenders interviewed.
Most agree that whoever becomes interim councillor for eight months should be someone who doesn’t plan to run in the Oct. 27 election. Coun. Brenda Johnson of Ward 11 likes Morrow, who was mayor from 1982 to 2000. But she would rather interview a handful of potential councillors than appoint him outright.
'I don’t know how comfortable I am with naming one person, regardless of their qualifications.' - Matthew Green
“At first blush, I think it’s a marvellous idea,” she said of appointing Morrow. A byelection would be too expensive for the city and the candidates, who would spend at least $20,000 to serve for eight months, she said.
She would support Morrow’s appointment, she said. But she’d rather have an interview process than hire him right away.
“Maybe that’s something we could look at so we could tell everybody that we didn’t just pick our favourite.”
That’s what the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board did last year when trustee Robert Barlow died. The board interviewed a number of candidates before appointing Shirley Glauser, who is not running for election in October.
Former board chair Tim Simmons is now one of four Ward 3 candidates in this fall’s election. He’d rather see several candidates interviewed for the interim position.
“That’s what we thought was appropriate at the board, and I think is probably a better way to go,” he said.
Municipal politicians serve four-year terms, he said. Over the course of four years, "a lot can happen," so it’s best to have a consistent process.
Look at 'a diverse range of people,' candidate says
“I don’t think you want to set a precedent where you don’t have a process that looks at a diverse range of people.”
Ward 3 candidate Matthew Green agrees, even if he wouldn’t submit his name.
“I would like to think it would be open to people to be able to present their case in a democratic way,” he said. “I don’t know how comfortable I am with naming one person, regardless of their qualifications.”
Morrow is so qualified, Merulla said, that holding interviews would provide “false hope” for others going through the interview process.
“He’s the longest-serving mayor in the old city of Hamilton, coupled with being a retired judge,” Merulla said. “His experience in the community, and his support in the community, speaks volumes of his qualifications.”
Byelection would cost $85,000
There are two options to fill Morelli’s position: a byelection or council appointment, city clerk Rose Caterini said. The Municipal Act doesn’t specify how council should choose the candidate.
A Ward 3 byelection would cost about $85,000, she said.
Neither candidate Mark DiMillo nor Victor Rosettani like the idea of a byelection. DiMillo said few have the resources to run twice anyway.
He’d be pleased to see Morrow pinch hit in the meantime. It would “allow us the opportunity to help him along the way as we gear up for an exciting election day,” he said.
Morrow "has the experience to fill in for the late Mr. Morelli and he loves the city, and I believe he would be perfect," Rosettani said.
Councillors will examine the issue at a Feb. 5 general issues committee meeting.
Morrow could not be reached for comment on Thursday.