Hamilton Integrity Commissioner “unable to come to conclusion” on police board confidential information investigation

By

Published February 27, 2024 at 5:09 pm

Hamilton City Hall

An exhaustive investigation into an alleged disclosure of confidential information from a Hamilton Police Services Board appointment committee last year has come up empty.

The police board initiated the complaint after Fred Bennink, a member of the board since 2019, told other members he knew he was not being re-appointed. “I’m being thrown out like the trash,” Bennink told his colleagues, prompting the investigation by David Boghosian, Hamilton’s Integrity Commissioner, into how the information was leaked.

The information of the chosen candidate was supposed to have remained confidential until it was officially announced and Boghosian ended up following a trail of insinuations that finally led him to declare that he was “unable to come to a conclusion who the source of the leak was or if there was a leak of confidential information at all.”

Fred Bennink

Boghosian started with Councillor Nrinder Nann (who does not sit on the board) and asked her if she had “any thoughts” as to who may have disclosed this information, Nann told him she did not know but suspected that it had been Councillor Esther Pauls (who does sit on the board), given that she  was “against the inclusiveness process,” had been a strong proponent of re-appointing Bennink and had resigned from the board shortly after it decided not to grant Bennink an interview.

Pauls, who was docked 15 days pay last year for failing to declare a conflict (her son is a sergeant with Hamilton Police) during debate on the police budget, “adamantly denied” that she had told Bennink that he would not be reappointed as the City-appointed citizen-member on the board, which is the civilian body governing the Hamilton Police Service.

Esther Pauls

There is a notice of motion on Wednesday’s Council agenda from Councillor J.P. Danko to “reconsider” that decision.

Boghosian also spoke to Councillor Cameron Kroetsch and Mayor Andrea Horwath – both board members – as well as the three members appointed by the Province and Bennink himself, who was described by the Integrity Commissioner as a “conservative white male” on a police services board that had publicly wanted “more representatives of vulnerable communities.”

Bennink told Boghosian he discovered through public advertising in late June that the police board had reopened the application process. At that point, Bennink said, he “saw the writing on the wall” as “clearly the committee would not be reopening the application process if they were happy with the candidates they already had.”

Councillors Nann and Kroetsch, Bennink added, had “made it clear to him that they did not want him” on the police board.

Boghosian said in his report to Council Bennink asked Kroetsch at a September board meeting when the City is “going to throw me down the cellar with the rest of the empties?” Bennink then resigned from the board as the City’s representative and days later was appointed to a vacant provincial citizen-member spot.

inthehammer's Editorial Standards and Policies advertising