Councilor’s Indemnification Causes City-wide Insurrection

| Tuesday, May 31st, 2011 | No Comments »

City councilor Terry Whitehead was recently found guilty of defamation in a case that has cost Hamilton tax payers $15,000 so far.  What’s even more troubling to Hamiltonian’s is the fact that Whitehead’s actions fell completely outside of his duties as a councilor.

Thespec.com writes that the councilor’s quarrel began following a council vote to share Flamborough Downs casino profits with the rest of the city.  Whitehead was “singled out, criticized, threatened and spat on for spearheading the move to share the slot revenues”.  He also claims to have received threatening phone calls in the days that followed. 

Four days later at 2:11 am (a period of time the judge said was more than enough to cool off), Whitehead sent and email to Free Flamborough chairman Roman Sarachman calling him a “destructive, mean-spirited, irrational liar that does not deserve the time of day”.  The email was copied to the mayor and other council members.  Whitehead describes his actions as having been in the heat of the moment, and says that he “used a sledgehammer when (he) should have used a finer tool.”  He also called Sarachman “the head of the snake” and said he would continue acting on behalf of the community with the same “voracity”.   

The city’s advisors on the case deemed Whitehead’s actions to be both within the scope of his duties and as having been done in good faith.  This allowed his legal fees to be covered through the city’s indemnification by-law.  In his ruling, Justice James Turnbull said, “It is incomprehensible that an email with such comments fell within the scope of his duties as a city councilor.”

At a time when “internet firings” are growing at relentless pace,  Whitehead’s case raises the question of whether council members should have privileges not afforded to the rest of the public, that are being paid for by the public.  At the very least, with all the press that this story has received, Hamiltonian’s will have the opportunity to perform their own check and balance come re-election time.

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