City council 'gutless' for not putting out a public call to replace Skelly: councillor

A Hamilton city councillor has resigned from a committee and called his fellow councillors “gutless” after they put off a public call to replace Donna Skelly.

Matthew Green, Ward 3 councillor, introduced a motion at a council meeting Wednesday. He called on the city to advertise the vacancy left by Skelly, who was just elected PC MPP for Flamborough-Glanbrook. Then qualified applicants would give five-minute presentations.

The winner would replace Skelly from July to November. Appointing someone, Green said, would just boost the idea that council is an old boys’ club.

Democracy ought not be sacrificed for the purpose of ease.– Matthew Green, Ward 3 councillor

“Democracy ought not be sacrificed for the purpose of ease.”

But council deferred Green’s motion to a subcommittee called governance review. Green, who is vice chair of that subcommittee, said that was burying the idea since little gets done there. Then he immediately resigned from it.

Donna Skelly will serve Flamborough-Glanbrook in the Ontario legislature. She’s expected to be sworn in later this month. (Tiffany Mayer/CBC)

“That’s gutless,” he called as all but two councillors voted against him. “Shame.”

Mayor Fred Eisenberger said later that an open call is impractical and unfair to central Mountain residents.

The person would only serve for four months, he said. And serving on council has a steep learning curve.

Putting a newbie in the seat would be “a disservice to the residents of Ward 7.”

There’s a municipal election Oct. 22, which means the seat will be filled soon anyway. The new council will start in December.

Under Ontario’s Municipal Act, council can either hold a byelection or appoint a person who agrees to hold the office.

Appointments have happened before. In 2014, council appointed former mayor Bob Morrow to Ward 3 when Coun. Bernie Morelli died. The appointment drew criticism then.

Council chose Morrow, in part, because Morrow had no plans to run for the seat. John Paul Danko, who finished 92 votes behind Skelly in 2016, said this week that council should appoint him, even though he’s running in the newly drawn Ward 8 in October. 

Giving it to someone running “is the same advantage afforded to each incumbent councillor choosing to run this year,” he said. It would also be “a precedent which has been set by other municipalities (appointing the runner up when the winner abdicates)”

Only Couns. Jason Farr and Aidan Johnson voted against deferring Green’s idea. The next governance review subcommittee meeting is June 26.

Coun. Maria Pearson of Ward 10 in lower Stoney Creek chairs the subcommittee. She disagrees that nothing gets done at it.

“That’s not true,” she said. “He may not be happy with the decisions, but that’s not true.”