By Kevin Werner, News Staff
Hamilton mayor Bob Bratina has resigned effective immediately from the Police Services Board.
The mayor, who has served on the board since 2010, read a prepared statement during a news conference at city hall Sept. 18, and then took questions from reporters.
“There’s a conflict between the statutory requirements of the Police Act and the notion that the mayor is the elected representative of all the people,” said Bratina, who became chair of the board last month. “My position as member and board chair interfered with my ability to meet the expectations of the community in responding to events.”
His resignation was prompted by the shooting of 45-year-old Steve Mesic by Hamilton police June 7. Bratina said after the Sept. 16 police service board meeting where he could see the Mesic family and Sharon Dorr, Steve’s fiancée, suffering at the packed event, but unable to speak to them, he talked with his wife and friends later that night about resigning his board position.
“I had a difficult evening,” he said.
When the shooting took place, Bratina said he wanted to reach out to the Mesic family, but was told by the Police Service Board he couldn’t.
“It is tragic,” he said. “I feel for the families. It was tragic for me not to respond.”
Bratina said he will now meet with the Mesic and Dorr families.
Since the shooting, the mayor and Police Chief Glenn De Caire had been heavily criticized for not meeting with the family members. De Caire expressed his condolences to the families during the Sept. 16 board meeting.
Their actions were in stark contrast toToronto Mayor Rob Ford and Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair who both met with the family of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim who was shot by police in a confrontation on a street car.
Bratina instructed council prior to his announcement to select his replacement. Bratina informed his colleagues about his decision about five minutes before the media conference.
Ancaster councillor Lloyd Ferguson said he was blindsided with Bratina’s decision. It comes on the heels of the police chief announcing he would not seek another contract after his current one ends December 2014.
“I can’t figure it out,” he said. “I’m puzzled (with the mayor’s decision.). My intention is to remain on the board.”
Ferguson, who was selected by council to the board earlier this summer, said he will “think about” whether he will seek to become chair or vice-chair of the board.
Ferguson replaced Councillor Terry Whitehead who has been suspended by the board pending an investigation by the Ontario Civilian Police Commission over alleged code of conduct violations.
The municipality has four representatives on the police board, which has usually included the mayor.
But Bratina said no other previous mayor has “been confronted with the situation I have.”
The mayor said he isn’t concerned about how the board will function in his absence.
This year the mayor has been one of the police’s best champions, supporting the chief’s request for a budget increase, even though his council colleagues have repeatedly voted against him.
Bratina said his resignation, “should not be seen as a reflection of his colleagues” or police officials.