A Hamilton councillor will lose another 45 days pay, after a report by the city’s integrity commissioner found that he harassed staff and a fellow city politician.
It’s the second time this term that Ward 14 Coun. Terry Whitehead has faced sanctions related to his conduct.
“We find that the complaints against the councillor are substantiated,” said Janice Atwood of Principles Integrity, while outlining the findings against Whitehead during Wednesday’s meeting of Hamilton city council.
“Intimidating staff to prevent publication of a report, threatening legal action against staff for carrying out their responsibilities and harassing during a council meeting,” listed Atwood.
“It is important to the rest of council to identify and call out bad behaviour when it occurs,” said Atwood, “We note council has the authority and the obligation to do so to ensure a safe and respectful work environment.”
In addition to the financial penalty, steps are also being taken to monitor Whitehead’s attendance at city hall, after Flamborough Coun. Judi Partridge outlined “real” concern with coming into her office.
“I have asked staff to come in with me when I do go in,” said Partridge, “and to be prepared to put their phones on record or come into my office should anyone enter it, particularly this individual.
“I don’t want confrontation,” added Partridge.
One of the allegations received and investigated by the integrity commissioner against Whitehead is that he directed disrespectful, bullying and intimidating conduct towards Partridge during a Feb. 9 meeting.
Whitehead confirmed during the latest council meeting that he’s battling mental health issues, “will be going on sick leave” and “won’t be coming back to city hall.”
“The issues I have are degrading, my health is being impacted,” said the Ward 14 councillor.
Whitehead returned to work last November after a previous and extended sick leave for what was then an undisclosed illness.
It was around that same time, in November 2021, that the integrity commissioner found Whitehead had bullied and harassed staff following previous allegations, which led to a penalty of 30 days of forfeited pay.
The councillor has stated that he’s being targeted for asking “tough questions” of city staff on behalf of Hamilton residents.
Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger has encouraged Whitehead to get the support he needs.
“All the help and assistance, available through HR and through the city is available to you, and I encourage you to take advantage of it,” said Eisenberger.
Council voted unanimously to support the integrity commissioner’s sanctions during Wednesday’s meeting.
“For those who have been subjected to harassment and bullying, it eats into your pores,” said Ward 1 Coun. Maureen Wilson. “You are in a constant state of fear.”
“This is case closed,” added Glanbrook Coun. Brenda Johnson. “If this was any other employee, with this type of background and this type of history, we would not be sitting here on this debate.”
Global News has reached out to Coun. Whitehead for further comment on the latest sanctions.
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