Hamilton police board needs to be revamped
It appears there has been increasing budgets just to build a large reserve
I read with interest the recent article concerning the complaint lodged by Mr. Juchniewicz, who is a Hamilton Police Services (HPS) board member, against the response by the HPS board, the vice-chairperson, Ms. Levy, and the board chairperson, Mr. Ferguson; in particular to Mr. Juchniewicz’s concerns about comments made by Ms. Levy and about the general in camera content of the HPS Board meetings.
The topic of infighting within the Hamilton Police Services Board regarding “allegations of secrecy, racism, and code of conduct violations” was discussed by the Spectator’s Andrew Dreschel in his recent article and was reported by CBC news online concerning objections to hidden agendas within the board raised in Mr. Juchniewicz’s letter.
My own dispute with Mr. Ferguson occurred at the May HPS board meeting. The results of the KPMG audit had been presented and the chair asked whether the issues raised by me in two Hamilton Spectator articles were a basis for concern. The auditor said they were not. Since I was present at that meeting, I requested an opportunity to respond publicly. My request to respond was denied, thereby undermining the reliability of my public concerns regarding police services financial affairs. In my opinion this was a violation of the chairman’s code of conduct and undermines the transparency of HPS and the democratic process.
Mr. Ferguson wrote an op-ed article in the Hamilton Spectator on June 11, 2016, in an attempt to bolster public confidence in the HPS budget. In the article, Mr. Ferguson praised the 2015 budget because it “was the lowest percentage increase in 16 years.” Mr. Ferguson did not mention though that police budgets in recent years have resulted in large surpluses, and therefore, any increase, in my opinion, regardless how small, is unjustified
Although Mr. Ferguson has dismissed the issues I have raised regarding police finances, I assure that the statements I made in those articles are accurate and I continue to find many areas that require closer examination. One of those areas is the costs incurred by HPS in hosting the Pan Am Games and the reimbursement of those costs by the province. The agreement was that the province would reimburse Police Services to the extent of the amount expended; however, the reimbursement claimed and received by HPS is considerably greater than the expenditures recorded in their accounts. The Pan Am claim was not audited by KPMG. I am encouraging the Ontario Auditor General to perform a followup audit.
Another issue I have raised, is the accounting for the large surplus that arose from reserves accumulated in the years 2013 to 2015. The reserves were intended as a contingency to cover the cost of contract settlements that were under negotiation during that period. The contracts were settled in 2015, however after settling the contracts; a surplus in excess of $3 million remained in the contingency and has remained in Police Services coffers. These funds were raised by levying tax on the residents of Hamilton, yet the HPS budget continues to rise.
It is my opinion that the excess funds received via the Pan Am game reimbursement and the contract contingency surplus were preplanned to provide financing for a forensic building for which police services had failed to obtain provincial and federal funding. I do not question the need for a forensic building, but I do question the method of financing it. As a law enforcement agency, they should go through proper approval processes instead of what looks to be a padding of their budget at the expense of Hamilton taxpayers.
Another serious concern is the provision in the retirement package of former chief Glen De Caire that permits him to retain his police services computer and cellphone. That does not comply with standard practice by business organizations and certainly not with other law enforcement agencies. I will be filing an appeal on this issue.
It is apparent that the Hamilton Police Services Board is dysfunctional and is not performing the tasks with which it is entrusted. There is internal discord and, in my view, a deficiency in leadership. It needs to be revamped. There is no representation from visible minorities on the board or in senior police services command. Hamilton Police Services has been operating in isolation without accountability and transparency. HPS continues to receive annual budget increases while accumulating large surpluses. It is my opinion that there should be greater involvement by City of Hamilton financial staff in the workings of police finances.