By Kevin Werner, News Staff
Hamilton councillors have unanimously appointed Feb. 5 former mayor Bob Morrow to fill the Ward 3 seat after the death of Bernie Morelli Jan. 14.
But the approval from some politicians came reluctantly.
“I am profoundly disappointed,” said Stoney Creek Brad Clark during the general issues committee meeting.
He chastised some of his colleagues for not properly informing the rest of council about how Morrow was chosen to fill the position.
“It’s not about the qualifications,” said Clark. “We could be bringing in a former prime minister. This is about process and privilege. This appointment (residents) can’t see.”
Ward 4 councillor Sam Merulla had first suggested Morrow, the former city’s longest serving mayor, to replace Morelli after speaking to him the day after the councillor’s funeral. Morrow also played the organ at Morelli’s funeral. Morrow would serve out Morelli’s term until the fall elections.
“(Morrow) is qualified and experienced,” said Merulla. “And (the transition) will be seamless.”
Merulla said Morrow has told him he won’t run for mayor or council in the October election.
Mountain councillor Terry Whitehead, who worked for Morrow when he was mayor, said Ward 3 residents will be pleased with the appointment.
“He was well received in this community, and well received in Ward 3,” said Whitehead. “He would be a great fit in the tradition of Bernie Morelli.”
Morrow, 67, served asHamilton’s chief magistrate from 1982 to 2000, where he lost in the first post-amalgamation election to Ancaster Mayor Bob Wade. He was elected to council in 1970. Morelli was first elected as the Ward 3 councillor in 1991, and served nine years with Morrow. He also served two terms as a citizenship judge, retiring in 2010.
Under the Municipal Act, a council can opt for a by-election, or it can select a person to fill the position council seat. That selection can include asking for people to step forward, and councillors would conduct an interview before voting on the person, a process thatClarkfavoured.
“I’d like to ask questions,” said Clark, who compared some of his colleagues to an ‘old boys club’ meeting secretly to decide on a candidate.
“I haven’t spoken to Morrow in 20 years. I don’t know anything about him. I know some of you have made commitments.”
Last monthSt. Catharinespoliticians appointed Laura Ip to replace a departing councillor. She finished third in the 2010 municipal election. Politicians had pondered holding a by-election, but dismissed the idea as too expensive.
Clarkwas also frustrated that councillors didn’t conduct the discussion over who would replace Morelli behind closed doors. He was miffed that Morrow’s name had been revealed a few weeks ago to the community, preventing politicians from having a more productive discussion in camera.
Some suburban councillors, even though they refused to vote against the appointment, were concerned about the lack of transparency in selecting Morrow.
Dundascouncillor Russ Powers said he was “challenged” to accept how Morrow was selected to replace Morelli.
He said over the last three years council has been diligent in being open and transparent to the public on its decision making. This issue, he said, has fallen short on being open to the public.
“There is a bit of a slippage here,” he said.
Stoney Creek councillor Maria Pearson, while appreciative of Morrow’s experience, said council should have been more thoughtful in selecting the former mayor.
“There was an alternative decision,” she said. “It should have been an application process. (But) I don’t want to be the person to rock the boat.”
Councillor who were absent for the vote were Brenda Johnson, Brian McHattie and Judi Partridge.
But Mayor Bob Bratina put his trust inMerulla, Chad Collins and Jason Farr, who have assisted Ward 3 residents while Morelli was ill.
“We are fortunate to have a former mayor,” said Bratina.
A special council meeting has been scheduled for Feb. 7 to vote on Morrow to represent Ward 3 residents.