By Kevin Werner, News Staff
Hamilton councillors appointed former mayor Bob Morrow to replace Bernie Morelli as the Ward 3 councillor.
But the 11-1 vote during a special council meeting Feb. 7 didn’t come without some drama with Stoney Creek councillor Brad Clark changing his vote to urge councillors to hold a more extensive selection process.
“I made a mistake,” said Clark. “We should have engaged all citizens.”
He said seven councillors had expressed similar concerns during the Feb. 5 government issues committee meeting to him on establishing a more open search process. Clark said other councillors agreed with him but said they didn’t want to rock the boat. They were concerned about how some councillors had already identified Morrow as their preferred candidate. He called it an “old boys club” making a decision rather than providing citizens with a choice.
Clark had made the appointment of Morrow unanimous at the committee meeting. But after the vote Clark reflected on his decision. He said residents vote for councillors in elections to hold the public trust and engage citizens. He said council fell short this time.
“I went home and thought and prayed on it,” he said. “I couldn’t square the circle. This isn’t the first time I stood alone before.”
Clark had urged council to conduct an interview process soliciting candidates for the Ward 3 position. He said it would take about a week to complete.
Ward 4 councillor Sam Merulla called Clark “duplicitous” in his motivation. Merulla said Clark told councillors earlier that once council made a decision, he supports it regardless of whether he objects to it.
Supporters of Morrow say his selection was welcomed by residents in Ward 3. Merulla had said Morelli would have approved of Morrow representing the community.
In the gallery viewing the debate was Larry and Mark Morelli, Bernie’s sons, and friend Marsha Duncan, who all applauded the selection. Morrow wasn’t present during the council meeting.
Morrow, 67, served as Hamilton’s mayor from 1982 to 2000. He was first elected to council in 1970. Morrow will also serve on the audit and finance, emergency and community services committees, and the Hamilton police services board.