The City of Hamilton’s Integrity Commissioners write Ward 14 City Councillor Terry Whitehead is continuing to harass and bully municipal staff, and they are slapping him on the wrist, again.
The Commissioners state Whitehead has violated the Council Code of Conduct three times.
They hope that this time, he will finally stop harassing City of Hamilton staff.
The Commissioners write that Whitehead declined to “resolve the complaint through circumspect acknowledgement, meaningful recognizance and genuine heartfelt apology.”
This is why they recommend Whitehead be penalized 15 days pay for each violation, a total pay suspension of 45 days.
City Council will decide if they accept the findings and recommendations during their meeting this coming Wednesday.
Council can suspend Whitehead’s pay for up to 90 days for each violation, in total up to 270 days.
The latest report was published Friday afternoon as part of Wednesday’s Council agenda and covers Whitehead’s violations of the Code between November 4, 2021, and February 9, 2022.
They find Whitehead to be retaliating against the City Clerk, the City’s Executive Director of Human Resources, and other members of Council who fulfilled the requirements of their respective roles in sanctioning Whitehead in November for his long campaign of harassment and bullying against the City’s Chief Roads Official.
Whitehead Harasses the City Clerk
Whitehead targeted City Clerk Andrea Holland for performing her statutory duty by publishing the November 2021 Integrity Commissioners report.
The City Clerk is bound by the Municipal Act to publish City Council agendas.
On November 4, 2021, Whitehead appeared unannounced at the City Clerk’s Office inside City Hall. Whitehead recorded the meeting and provided the Commissioners.
“A review of the recording … makes it quite evident that his intention … was to challenge the Clerk and to strong-arm the Clerk, in an effort to prevent her from placing the Report before Council,” The Commissioners report.
The Commissioners state Whitehead threatened the Clerk by stating, “I just want you to understand the consequences of your actions.”
The report states Whitehead stated he was “having fun” because he is “a millionaire.”
Whitehead “proceeded to chastise and berate the Clerk about placing the Report on the Council agenda for the following week,” the Commissioners write.
Harasses the City’s Exec Dir Human Resources
The next day, Whitehead contacted the City’s Executive Director of Human Resources Lora Fortana late in the afternoon, leaving a “threatening” voice mail message.
In the message, Whitehead states “I just got off the phone with my lawyer, a couple of lawyers actually” stating, “I feel really bad. I was giving you the benefit. Anyway, I hope you understand that no hard feelings. I have to do what I have to do.”
Whitehead is represented by real estate lawyer Jack Restivo, who wrote an odd legal letter in response to the November 2021 report.
Whitehead Given Opportunity to Apologize, Avoid Consequence for Harassment
Hamilton’s Integrity Commissioners, Jeffrey Abrams and Janice Atwood-Petkovski distinguish themselves from other Ontario municipal integrity commissioners by taking a more ‘conciliatory’ approach to misbehaviour by municipal politicians.
Atwood-Petkovski is a retired City of Hamilton City Solicitor.
As Integrity Commissioners, Abrams and Atwood-Petkovski allow municipal councillors to have complaints dismissed by apologizing to them as Commissioners.
In the first two incidents in this report, they write that Whitehead declined to apologize. Had he apologized, he could have avoided sanctions.
“Time was spent canvassing with the Councillor opportunities to resolve the complaint through circumspect acknowledgement, meaningful recognizance and genuine heartfelt apology,” they write.
Abrams and Atwood-Petkovski dismissed numerous past complaints involving Whitehead using their ‘conciliatory’ approach.
Abrams and Atwood-Petkovski write Whitehead committed further Code of Conduct violations as they were canvassing him for an apology.
February 9, 2022, Council Meeting, Whitehead Misbehaves Again
During the Council meeting on February 9, 2022, Whitehead claimed to be having technical difficulties.
He falsely blamed the City Clerk for the difficulties and publicly berated and belittled the Clerk numerous times during the meeting.
In private chats between councillors during the meeting, Ward 15 Councillor Judi Partridge complained that Whitehead engaged in “threatening and aggressive” behaviour.
The Commissioners write, resulting from Whitehead’s behaviour, Partridge “does feel some anxiety and stress about returning to ‘in person’ attendance at City Hall, given that her office is located directly across from Councillor Whitehead’s.”
Penalty and Findings
The Commissioners make three findings of wrongdoing against Whitehead.
They find his actions constitute reprisal against the Executive Director of Human Resources for providing information to the Integrity Commissioner, that his harassment of the City Clerk violates the Council Code of Conduct, and similarly, his behaviour towards Partridge constitutes further harassment.
The Municipal Act allows the Commissioners to recommend sanctioning Whitehead up to 90 days of salary for each violation.
They determined to recommend Council dock Whitehead for 45 days’ salary in total for the three offences.
There are 145 days between Wednesday’s Council meeting and the end of this Council term on November 14. Council is not limited to this term when they impose a penalty.
If Council decides to sanction Whitehead at the maximum 270-day penalty for the three offences, it will carry into the next term if Whitehead is re-elected.
The Commissioners state Whitehead’s harassment and intimidation of others is unacceptable and constitutes “a threat of reprisal against a Complainant or any other person for providing information to the Integrity Commissioner.”
“We strongly urge the Councillor to seek support which may be available to assist him in wrestling with the personal health
challenges which burden him,” they write in their concluding comments.
City Council will vote on the sanction to be imposed upon Whitehead during Wednesday’s Council meeting which begins at 9:30 am.
Production Details Current Version: 1.0.0 First published: June 19, 2022 Last edited: June 19, 2022 Author: Joey Coleman Edit Record v. 1.0.0 original version