City won't say when investigation into staffer with white supremacist ties will end

It's also unclear whether there will be any sort of statement from the city once it's over, despite officials acknowledging the public interest in the situation.

Marc Lemire, the former head of a white supremacist group, works in IT with the city

Marc Lemire, former leader of the Heritage Front, is on leave while an investigation into his employed in the City of Hamilton's information technology office is carried out. (Colin Perkel/The Canadian Press)

Hamilton officials won't say when an investigation into an employee with links to white supremacists will be finished.

It's also unclear whether there will be any sort of public statement from the city once it's over, with the city manager citing privacy around personnel matters.

"These things are complicated and I want it done thoroughly and respectfully," said city manager Janette Smith. "I wouldn't want to estimate a time at this point, but I don't want it to drag on."

Marc Lemire, the former head  of the Heritage Front, has been on paid leave since May 8 after safety and privacy concerns were raised about his role in IT and questions were asked about how much the city knew of his past when it hired him.

The city has called in two outside agencies to probe what information he's accessed at the city and whether he's still involved in white supremacist activities, among other details.

Lemire has been working in the city's IT department since about 2005. He had ties with the white supremacist movement dating back to the early 90s, and at one point, worked full-time for Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel, a 2005 court document shows. He was working "to develop websites to disseminate messages of racial hatred and to incite violence," it says.

Lemire says he rejects the Heritage Front. (thefreedomsite.org)

He was also head of the Heritage Front until the organization's demise, which happened around the same time the city hired him.

In an email to CBC News from early May, Lemire said he hasn't been involved in "any politics" for many years, adding the "Heritage Front stuff" dates back to when he was a teen.

"I reject the Heritage Front for what it was; as I have stated consistently for over 11 years," he wrote.

City seeks to respect 'employee confidentiality'

Council discussed a "labour relations matter" during an in-camera session Friday, but both Mayor Fred Eisenberger and Smith said they were barred from confirming whether or not Lemire was the topic of conversation.

The city manager previously pledged that once the investigation is finished "as much as I can share, I will."

I don't want to predict what the outcome is and it would be unfair to speculate what I would be saying.- Janette Smith, Hamilton City Manager

But after the closed-door session ended Friday, Smith and the mayor said the city does not make any comments about personnel matters.

"That will be the case with this and any other employee matter," Smith explained, adding she won't be able to discuss what the city will or won't say about the situation until after the investigation ends.

"I totally appreciate there's always interest from the public … on the outcomes of investigations," said Smith. "I want to make sure I have confidence that we've done a thorough, respectful, measured investigation and that at the end of the day, I do respect employee confidentiality."

When asked whether it's possible the investigation could end without the city ever making any comment about it, she gestured at reporters and said "I would suspect that yourselves and others will ask a question about it and, depending on the question, I will tell you what I can. But I will not provide any information that doesn't respect employee confidentiality."

Hamilton city manager Janette Smith revealed few details about the investigation following Friday's council meeting. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Smith also refused to say whether or not she would say when the investigation was completed.

"I don't want to predict what the outcome is and it would be unfair to speculate what I would be saying," she noted.

The city manager did say Lemire remains on leave as the investigation is ongoing — though the probe is close to completion.

"Sometimes with investigations the closer you get the wrap up, you realize there's a piece that's still missing."

with files from Samantha Craggs