Hamilton

Hamilton mayor wants new rules to keep Trump hats off the table

The mayor wants code of conduct after a committee member kept a Trump hat on the table during a meeting.

Fred Eisenberger wants code of conduct after committee member kept a Trump hat on display during a meeting

David Serwatuk kept a "Make America great again" hat on the table throughout a Hamilton committee of adjustment meeting. When someone complained, he removed it. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Hamilton's mayor will push for a code of conduct for people who sit on city committees and boards after one appointee kept a Donald Trump hat on the table during a meeting last week.

It could have been Hillary related, or whoever. From my perspective, this is not the place for any kind of political posturing.- Mayor Fred Eisenberger

Mayor Fred Eisenberger says while city council and staff have codes of conduct, there's nothing outlining how people who sit on municipal committees and boards must behave when performing their duties.

There should be, he said. That became clear to him after David Serwatuk, a member of the quasi-judicial committee of adjustment, kept a "Make America Great Again" hat on the table.

"That's a gap we have to cover," said Eisenberger.

Eisenberger doesn't like the divisiveness that's come out of Trump's presidential election campaign. He also doesn't like the increasingly aggressive and public "misogyny and racism" that's resulted, he said.

But committee members shouldn't have partisan material during city meetings in general.

"It could have been Hillary related, or whoever," he said. "From my perspective, this is not the place for any kind of political posturing."

Serwatuk put a hat on the table during a Nov. 17 meeting.

Serwatuk kept it there, facing him, for most of the meeting. At times, he rested it on his knee. It stayed until a presenter complained. Then Serwatuk removed it, declared a conflict of interest and left the room.

The slogan "Make America Great Again" has become of a fixture of the Trump campaign. Here, President-elect Trump puts on his signature "Make America Great Again" hat in Sacramento, Calif. (Jae C. Hong/Associated Press)

Serwatuk said afterward that his brother had just given him the hat and he didn't know where else to put it. He wasn't trying to make a statement, he said.

The U.S. election "doesn't have anything to do with me. I'm a Canadian citizen and all I care about is Canada."

Decisions of the committee of adjustment can be appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board and from there, all the way up to the Supreme Court.- Aidan Johnson, Ward 1 councillor

But Matthew Green, Ward 3 councillor, called the hat a "clear symbol" of the racism, misogyny, xenophobia, Islamophobia and other discrimination people felt after some of Trump's campaign remarks.

Eisenberger weighed in on Twitter too, calling the political show "totally inappropriate."

Aidan Johnson, Ward 1 councillor, agrees. Johnson plans to bring a motion forward at Wednesday's city council meeting to create a code of conduct for the committee of adjustment. He and Eisenberger may merge their ideas.

"Members of the committee of adjustment are quasi-judicial figures," Johnson said. "Decisions of the committee of adjustment can be appealed to the Ontario Municipal Board and from there, all the way up to the Supreme Court."

Johnson said Serwatuk's move was inappropriate in the same way Bernd Zabel's was. Zabel is a Hamilton judge who wore a Trump hat in court this month. Four people have filed complaints with the Ontario Judicial Council. Zabel has also apologized.

"When a judge or quasi-judicial figure appears wearing some political symbol, it taints the process," Johnson said. "It ignores the sacred principle of political impartiality."

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