Police board members accused of secrecy, racism
Chair Lloyd Ferguson strongly rejects allegations made in email
Infighting on the Hamilton Police Services Board has exploded into public allegations of secrecy, racism and code of conduct violations.
A civilian member of the board has asked city manager Chris Murray to investigate the board and specifically chair Lloyd Ferguson for allegedly hiding important issues from the public.
“It is with sadness that I tell you that I have lost confidence in the divisive manner in which non-intimate financial or non-personal matters end up in camera,” Walt Juchniewicz said in an email obtained by The Spectator.
“This has resulted in important issues being hidden from the public, often forgotten or dealt with in a manner which the community would question.”
Juchniewicz, who was appointed to the police board by city council in 2013, asks Murray to investigate his complaints.
“My hope is to ensure an atmosphere where the board and specifically the chair act only with full transparency and the utmost integrity.”
Ferguson, who is the city councillor for Ancaster, strongly denies the allegations.
“I firmly reject them; they’re false,” Ferguson said. “The lies in that letter are unbelievable.”
Ferguson also accuses Juchniewicz of violating various board governance rules by going public with his complaints.
“I’ve turned this whole matter over to the board solicitor and we’re going to be forced to take appropriate action because he’s breached those things.”
The Juchniewicz email dated Feb. 1 was also sent to members of city council.
When contacted by phone, Juchniewicz said he didn’t intend the letter to go public. He says he asked Murray to investigate his concerns because both he and Ferguson are city appointees to the board.
“I took this to what I thought was the next appropriate step,” he said.
Murray and Ferguson both note the city has no jurisdiction over the police board. The oversight body is the Ontario Civilian Police Commission, not the city manager or council.
Juchniewicz’s request for an investigation appears to have been triggered by allegations Ferguson tried to “mute” a letter from Juchniewicz in which he complained about a “personal, disrespectful and racist statement” allegedly made by vice chair Madeleine Levy.
Juchniewicz, who is of Polish extraction, alleges that at the Dec. 15, 2016, board meeting, Levy commented that “Poles killed Jews in Auschwitz,” the notorious Nazirun death camp located in occupied Poland.
In a Dec. 28 letter to Ferguson, Juchniewicz said he was profoundly shocked and saddened by Levy’s words, which he said “sends a chilling and disturbing message as well as absence of cultural competency in a leadership role.”
Juchniewicz asked for an apology from Levy, who is a well-known community volunteer and active in Holocaust education, He also told Ferguson he would not support Levy’s re-election as vice chair at the Jan. 12 meeting.
Levy subsequently expressed regret to Juchniewicz in a Jan. 4 letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Spectator.
“Dear Walt,” she wrote, “I regret the incident happened at the December Police Board meeting. I am sorry that it upset you.”
Levy could not be reached. But Ferguson denies he tried to suppress the letter by dealing with it behind closed doors.
He says the Police Services Act stipulate complaints against board members must first be dealt with in camera.
Ferguson says Juchniewicz refused to discuss the issue in camera but did accept Levy’s letter of apology.
Ferguson also denies that he tried to orchestrate Levy’s re-election as vice chair at last month’s meeting by conducting the election while Juchniewicz was out of the room. Ferguson says video of the meeting clearly shows Juchniewicz was present.
According to Ferguson, the board is expected to deal with the allegations against Levy at its meeting next Thursday.
It may very well be the board will also be dealing with this new accumulation of claims, grievances and allegations, all of which play into lingering images from previous terms of a dysfunctional governing body divided against itself while overseeing a $157 million police budget.
The lies in that letter are unbelievable. LLOYD FERGUSON WARD 12 COUNCILLOR, CHAIR OF POLICE BOARD