Mayor Bob Bratina steps down from police services board

Mayor Bob Bratina announced he's stepping down from the city's police services board on Wednesday afternoon.
Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina announces his resignation from the city's police services board on Wed. Sept. 18, 2013. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Motivated by the fallout to the shooting death of Hamilton man Steve Mesic, Mayor Bob Bratina says he’s stepping down from the city's police services board 

The mayor, who currently chairs the board, announced Wednesday that his role on the board conflicted with how he wanted to respond as mayor to Mesic’s death.

 Bratina’s instinct as mayor, he said, was to reach out to the family.

I really went through a difficult evening in looking at the faces of the family and knowing that I wanted to reach out to them but couldn’t.- Mayor Bob Bratina

“However, the advice I received as a member of the police board was to not make any statements or have any contact with anyone connected to the investigation,” he said.

Mesic’s fiancée, Sharon Dorr, and other family and friends attended the police board meeting Monday. Bratina said it was evident to him after that meeting that he had to step down.

“I really went through a difficult evening in looking at the faces of the family and knowing that I wanted to reach out to them but couldn’t,” he said.

“It became apparent to me that my position as member and chair of the board interfered with my ability to meet the expectations of the community in responding to events.”

Bratina had a brief and tense exchange with Norm Dorr, Mesic's would-be father-in-law, at that meeting after Police Chief Glenn De Caire spoke about the Mesic shooting. Bratina requested the family and supporters leave the meeting to make more space in the cramped room.

During his announcement, Bratina called it a "minor" incident and not a factor in his resignation.

Not convinced

But Norm Dorr, Sharon's father, told CBC Hamilton he "doesn't buy" Bratina's reasoning for stepping down.

"He could have picked up the phone at any time and said 'look, I can't talk to you about the SIU investigation, but I want to offer my condolences as mayor,'" Dorr said. "But he didn't."

"We didn't want answers from him. We wanted to talk to him as mayor."

Dorr did say he thought the move was the "right first step" — now he'd like to see Bratina resign as mayor. "I'm not that surprised that this happened, because he's doing a lousy job as mayor," he added.

Bratina’s resignation from the police board is effective immediately.

It marks the latest in a series of events on the board that have included the resignation of member Jim Kay, and an Ontario Civilian Police Commission investigation into Coun. Terry Whitehead.

Police Chief Glenn De Caire also announced this month that he would not seek to extend his contract at the end of next year.

It’s all “puzzling,” said Coun. Lloyd Ferguson, an interim member of the board during Whitehead’s suspension.

First De Caire makes a retirement announcement, “lame ducking” himself 16 months in advance, Ferguson said. Now the mayor has stepped down.

Many secrets

In the first two meetings as a police services board member, Ferguson said, he’s learned that “everything is a secret. That, I find troubling,” he said.

He didn’t find out about Bratina’s decision to step down until five minutes before the announcement, he said.

“There’s some digging I have to do.”

Bratina’s decision “just opens up many other questions,” Whitehead said.

“What was the real motivation, I think is going to be the question many people in this community are going to ask,” he said.

“I don’t think this story’s going away.”

It’s been a fractured year for city council’s relationship with the police services board. First, the two butted heads over a budget increase that saw De Caire’s staff slash the budget three times.

In addition to Kay’s resignation and Whitehead’s suspension, council also passed a motion asking the province for more control over the police services board.

Mesic was shot and killed by officers near the Lincoln Alexander Parkway in June. De Caire offered condolences to his family on Monday, which the family claims was too late.

Bratina had a brief exchange with Dorr, Mesic's would-be father-in-law, over the group leaving to make more space in the cramped room.

During his announcement, Bratina called it a "minor" incident and not a factor in his resignation.

With files from Adam Carter


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