By Graeme MacKay, Editorial Cartoonist, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday November 10, 2015
New film raises bothersome questions about city hall culture
A new documentary film raises troubling questions about corporate culture at Hamilton City Hall.
“The Push” analyzes a controversial 2014 incident in which Coun. Lloyd Ferguson pushed independent journalist Joey Coleman during a heated exchange in the lobby outside council chambers.
The film was publicly screened for the first time at The Zoetic Theatre on Concession Street Sunday as part of the Hamilton Film Festival.
Coleman alleged actions against him by city staff following the incident were nothing more than an attempt to silence him.
“This is an effort to end independent journalism at city hall,” he said.
In the incident, Coleman said he was standing in the foyer outside council chambers holding his video camera and waiting for the start of a news conference.
Ferguson, Coun. Brad Clark and city staffer Mike Kirkopoulos were standing nearby in a huddle.
Ferguson, thinking Coleman was eavesdropping on their conversation, physically moved him away.
“He took a very tight grip on my arm; we were going to the floor,” Coleman said. “Everyone else was frozen with shock and I thought he was going to punch me in the face.”
Bystanders separated the two and the next day Ferguson apologized to Coleman personally and to city council, backing his words with a self-imposed $1,000 donation to an Ancaster charity.
Coleman accepted the apology and said he considered the matter closed. It was revived, however, by complaints to the city’s integrity commissioner. The incident was also investigated by provincial police and the Ontario Civilian Police Commission. (Ferguson was, and remains, chair of the Hamilton Police Services Board.)
The city commissioner found Ferguson did violate Hamilton’s anti-violence policy but no sanctions were recommended. The other investigations also concluded there were no grounds for other charges or actions.
In the two-hour film Coleman and others argue the incident and its aftermath illustrate a culture of fear at city hall in which employees are held to a policy dictating “zero tolerance” for violence while a veteran councillor can manhandle a citizen with impunity. (Source: Hamilton Spectator)
Calling all directors – Let #thepush be the prequel to something even more epic for #HamOnt: https://t.co/MPtHBVWWCt pic.twitter.com/VXm50rLhgY
— Graeme MacKay (@mackaycartoons) November 9, 2015