Ward 7 Hamilton City Councillor Esther Pauls Credit: Joey Coleman

New City of Hamilton Integrity Commissioner David Boghosian has ruled Ward 7 Councillor Esther Pauls can vote on the Hamilton Police Service budget as a member of the Hamilton Police Services Board.

In a seven-page ruling, Boghosian writes the overall police budget has no material impact on the compensation given to individual police officers because salaries and benefits are set by collective agreements.

Pauls son, John Pauls, is an Inspector with the Hamilton Police Service.

Boghosian writes Pauls does have a conflict when the Board is considering collective agreements and must not participate in any meetings discussing them.

Recent Ontario Court Decision on Conflict When Children Employed

Boghosian notes a recent Ontario Superior Court decision requires him to reconsider what constitutes conflict of interest in situations where an elected official’s child is employed by the body they are elected to.

“Since the previous IC’s decision was released, a decision of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice was released which essentially arrived at the opposite conclusion to that reached by the previous Integrity Commissioner in a highly analogous fact situation. In London District Catholic School Board, Application 2023 ONSC 1693 (CanLII), Justice Nicholson of the Superior Court held that school board trustees were not in a conflict of interest under the [Municipal Conflict of Interest Act] in considering and voting on the School Board’s annual budget, notwithstanding that these trustees had children who were teachers employed by the Board (and whose remuneration, as in the case of HPS members, was set by a collective agreement).”

Police Remuneration Set by Contract – Budget Votes Do Not Impact

Boghosian writes:

“The HPSB budget has no impact whatsoever on any aspect of the remuneration paid to any officer, including an Inspector. The amounts set out in the collective agreements are legally binding and enforceable against the HPS in the event of a default in payment. Those amounts must be honoured regardless of the budget. Officers, even senior officers, have no right to any discretionary remuneration that is not provided for in the respective collective agreements.”

Pauls Not Permitted to Vote on HPS Contracts

Boghosian writes:

“Councillor Pauls does have a disqualifying interest with respect to anything to do with the three HPS collective agreements such that she must declare a disqualifying interest in respect of deliberations concerning any of them. Although only the [Senior Officers’ Collective Agreement] directly affects Councillor Pauls’ son, negotiation of the other two agreements could impact on the negotiation of the new [Senior Officers’ Collective Agreement] such that a reasonable prospect of a conflict arises.

Pauls Needs to Consider Potential for Conflict on Any Vote to Reduce HPS Budget

Boghosian’s decision includes a note of caution that Pauls’ could have a disqualifying pecuniary conflict of interest regarding votes to decrease the HPS budget.

“Councillor Pauls should either declare a conflict or at least consult further with the Integrity Commissioner with respect to any motion to reduce the amount of the HPS budget compared to the previous year.”

Boghosian’s Full Letter

Boghosian’s full letter can be read in PDF format here. (157kb)

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Published: February 13, 2024
Last edited: February 13, 2024
Author: Joey Coleman
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