Ward 8 City Councillor John-Paul Danko during a January 2019 Hamilton City Council meeting. Credit: Joey Coleman

Hamilton Integrity Commissioner David Boghosian has ruled a new compliant filed by Jelena Vermilion against Ward 8 Councillor John-Paul Danko to be frivolous.

In a letter to Vermilion, released to selected media by Danko on Friday, Boghosian states Danko did not violate Council’s Code of Conduct when responding to an April complaint filed by Vermilion.

[Hamilton’s City Clerk received the IC decision on June 13, 2024. Despite being a public document, the City Clerk did not include it in the Council public correspondence.]

The second complaint was filed on June 11, 2024.

Vermilion alleged Danko acted in bad faith by not using she/her pronouns in written correspondence to the Integrity Commissioner, and this reflected disrespect for a member of the 2SLQBTQ+ community who is transgender.

Responding to this second complaint, Danko stated he was unsure of Vermilion’s preferred pronouns and referred to Vermilion as “the Complainant” in his response.

“I do not find, based on the evidence you have provided, that there was anything ‘socially incorrect’ or ‘inappropriate socially inappropriate’ about his comments,” Boghosian writes.

“While he could have investigated into the appropriate pronoun to refer to you by, he merely made the statement regarding uncertainty about which pronoun to use by way of explanation as to why he was referring to you as “the Complainant” over the balance of the Response. That is hardly ‘socially incorrect’ or ‘socially inappropriate’ in my opinion.”

Vermilion further alleged Danko acted in bad faith when misspelling her name in his response.

Boghosian writes: “While you may have taken personal offence about the incorrect spelling of both your first and last names, there is no evidence that this was done for any malicious purpose and are easily explained as typos.”

“I am therefore summarily dismissing your Complaint as frivolous pursuant to s. 18 of Bylaw 16-288”.

The Integrity Commissioner further noted the correspondence that Vermilion is concerned about was not public until she released it.

“[Danko’s] impugned statements were not disseminated by me (or, to my knowledge, Cllr. Danko) to anyone other than you, and then only to you for the limited purpose of providing any rebuttal to them,” Boghosian writes.

“To the extent that a wider audience is now aware Cllr. Danko made these statements, that is solely because you chose to publicize them in a document you emailed to all members of Council as well as dozens of others on June 11, 2024.”

The April Complaint and Danko’s Inappropriate Comments

The dispute between Danko and Vermilion began in April when Danko referred to Vermilion and another YWCA Women of Distinction winner as “ungrateful, self righteous, toddlers with a microphone.

Danko deleted his social media post later that day, acknowledging, “Earlier, I posted a Twitter message that is beneath the dignity of my office. I sincerely apologize and will strive to do better in future.”

IC Boghosian investigated that matter, concluding Danko’s post violated Council’s Code of Conduct, but recommended no action be taken in the matter.

[Boghosian’s report implied that future violations would result in a recommendation for sanctions.]

Boghosian’s Flawed Report

In the report regarding this incident, Boghosian strayed from his mandate and opined on Vermilion’s motivations and media commentary, adding to his report that Vermilion “successfully and willfully traded off Cllr. Danko’s comments to enhance her media presence and stature in the community.”

As previously noted here on TPR, these in passing comments were both unnecessary and could discourage future complainants, especially citizens who do not engage in public activities and be concerned about their reputations being maligned.

Vermilion to Delegate on IC Reports

Vermilion will delegate to City Council on July 8, asking them to amend the original IC findings to remove the comments regarding her public response to the April social media post, and to change their Code of Conduct to require councillors to know and use people’s preferred pronouns.

Danko issued a statement on Friday that Council should not change the independence of the IC.

“It is critical that the Office of the Integrity Commissioner remains independent of Council and that Council does not politicize or attempt to extend influence over the work of the Integrity Commissioner in any way,” Danko wrote.

Council meetings on Monday beginning at 9:30 a.m. The meeting is being streamed on YouTube.

Vermilion is the second scheduled delegate.

Production Details
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Published: July 7, 2024
Last updated: July 7, 2024
Author: Joey Coleman
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