Retired Hamilton councillor accused of harassment did not face all pay penalties


Published March 17, 2023 at 1:40 pm

There is no public accounting that shows retired Hamilton councillor Terry Whitehead faced a pay suspension last year. That was supposed to happen after the 19-year Mountain representative harassed employees and another councillor three times.

The matter might end up being a dead issue. Whitehead, who did not attend meetings for prolonged stretches in 2021 and ’22 while contending with what he called his “declining health,” is no longer on council. And case law does not allow for recovery.

The Public Record was the first to discover the City of Hamilton’s Section 284 Municipal Act Report, which is a public-records line-item list of how much elected representatives and members of public boards were paid the year prior, suggests little mathematical likelihood that Whitehead had his pay suspended for 45 days — 15 days per incident — in the later stages of the year. During that time, though, the city passed a safety plan in regard to the behaviours of Whitehead.

Whitehead was paid in the range of $89,750 before his council term expired on Nov. 14. His separate 30-day pay penalty from November 2021, also a consequence of his harassment of a city employee, was applied to the January ’22 pay period.

The other eight councillors who served 10.5 months before retiring, or losing re-election bids, had salaries in the $92,130 to $96.770 range. Former Ward 2 councillor Jason Farr had a salary just over $83,000 due to taking an unpaid leave to run for the Ontario Liberal Party in Hamilton East—Stoney Creek in the 2022 Ontario general election.

Newly seated councillors started at $11,571.20 for their first month and a half in elected office. When that sum is added to the salaries of their predecessors, it works out to be roughly in the range of the representatives who were re-elected. Couns. Brad Clark (Ward 9), John-Paul Danko (8), Tom Jackson (6), Nrinder Nann (3), Esther Pauls (7), and Maureen Wilson (1) had salaries between $102,000 and $105,000.

The pay of Mayor Andrea Horwath, who was elected on Oct. 24, and previous mayor Fred Eisenberger were listed on a separate page.

The Public Record, a reader-supported outlet published by Hamilton journalist Joey Coleman, also quoted a 2014 Ontario court case that examined whether a municipal politician could be held personally financially responsible for a budget overexpenditure. The ruling found there is “no statutory authority” for a city to do so.

That indicates that this might end up as an unsolved mystery.

Whitehead waited until the absolute last minute last summer to clear up whether he was running again in Ward 14. A media release was sent from an executive assistant’s account on the evening of Aug. 19, a few hours after the deadline to file nomination papers had expired.

“Family illnesses, the loss of loved ones, and my own declining health — all exacerbated by the trials we faced together during the (COVID-19) pandemic,” Whitehead wrote. “The toll (that) took has been lasting to say the least, which is why I know it’s time for me to take a step back, and not seek re-election as your councillor this upcoming election. At this point, for myself and my loved ones there can be no other choice.”

Whitehead represented Ward 14 during the previous term, and repped neighbouring Ward 8 for the first 15 of his 19 years on council. (The ward boundaries were altered before the ’18 vote.) When he attended meetings in late 2021 and early ’22, there were a few instances where fellow colleagues had to mute his mic when he debated delegators instead of asking questions.

In that farewell message, Whitehead seemed to somewhat own up to going over the line, but defended being outspoken and provocative.

“Only dead fish go with the flow,” he wrote.

(Images: City of Hamilton.)

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