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Hamilton politicians to be included in proposed lobbying ban along with senior bureaucrats

 By Kevin Werner, News Staff

 If Hamilton is going to prevent former senior employees from lobbying or having contact with their previous departmental colleagues, then politicians should be barred from doing the same, says city councillors.

The city’s human resources staff acknowledged Hamiltoncould enforce restrictions for senior level staff, and could include a code of conduct provision that prevents them from leaving the city’s employment only to return in another capacity. However, any temporary ban would need to be “clear, unambiguous, specific, as narrow as possible, imposed for a reasonable time frame, relate to a bona fide rationale for the restriction, involve the exchange of contractual consideration and be reasonable,” stated human resources staff in a report to the audit and finance committee. They pointed out courts have upheld restrictions up to a year.

They said Hamilton would be able to establish a one-year ban on former staff taking a position with, or receiving benefits from, a company that has a business relationship with the city; prevent former employees from revealing confidential information and bar them for from lobbying the city for a year. A staff report is expected to be presented to the Sept. 22 audit and finance committee.

Stoney Creek councillor Brenda Johnson urged staff to include politicians in the post employment restrictions.

“We should lead by example,” said Johnson at the Aug. 13 audit and finance committee,.

She said any new post-employment policy for councillors should be approved prior to the Oct. 27 municipal election because council will have at least four new politicians sitting around the table. If politicians want to establish a new post-employment policy, it needs to happen before the end of September when council stops holding meetings in deference to the municipal election.

“It’s a perfect opportunity,” she said. “We will be having a slew of people coming in.”

Hamiltonpoliticians who have left office but have represented individuals or companies at city hall include former mayor Larry Di Ianni, and former Hamilton alderman Henry Merling, who has since passed away. Joe Rinaldo, a former city of Hamilton general manager of finance, has represented companies before city staff as a public sector consultant.

The proposed policy change was prompted by Ward 4 councillor Sam Merulla back in April who suggested a “cooling off period” on former city staff from taking a position as a lobbyist or consultant.

The federal government has established a five-year ban on all MPs, senators and senior staff from lobbying or serving on boards of directors of companies that deal with the federal government, meeting with their former department or being involved in any work that has been contracted out by the feds.

Helen Tomasik, executive director for Human Resources, said the city can incorporate its code of conduct policies, which includes prohibiting lobbying and other restrictions, within anew cityemployee’s contract. Human Resources staff, though, was skeptical about inserting any prohibitions within an existing city employee’s contract.

Stoney Creek councillor Brad Clark suggested all city employees should have to follow the city’s code of conduct regardless of whether or not it is embedded in their contracts.

“It’s a fine balance between employee rights and employer rights,” he said.

 

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