Anarchy in the CoH
A police investigation into the disappearance of new parking signs in Hamilton has been dropped — after it was discovered that the “theft” had been secretly instigated by Deputy Mayor Donal Smith and Alderman Carlton Simmons.
The two elected officials have now been accused of anarchy by one top City administrator after they hatched a plot to remove more than 50 pay-and-display signs without the knowledge or approval of Board colleagues.
The signs were erected last month after the Corporation of Hamilton’s elected Board approved new parking tariffs on all roads in the city.
But The Royal Gazette understands that Corporation Secretary Edward Benevides was forced to call in the police last week after dozens of the signs in north Hamilton were removed on August 29 and August 30 — 11 days after the new regulations came into effect.
The theft was not spotted until almost a week later. But according to one City Hall source, police were able to apprehend a suspect after reviewing CCTV footage.
But the man — who is understood to work as a barman in a club owned by Mr Simmons and is not employed by the Corporation — was released after he produced a letter signed by Mr Smith and Mr Simmons authorising him to remove the signs.
The letter, dated August 29, reads: “To whom it may Concern, Under the direction of the Deputy Mayor Donald [sic] Smith and Alderman Carlton Simmon [sic] we have instructed Vincy Gardener. To remove all signs posted in Zone Three in North Hamilton that includes North Street, King Street along Dundonald Street and Brunswick Street.
“This is a matter of urgent business to the City and should you have any questions please contact either the Deputy Mayor on 533-7480 or Alderman Simmons on 535-9662.”
The letter, which appears to be printed on plain paper with no Corporation letterhead, is signed and dated by Mr Smith as Deputy Mayor and Chairman of Infrastructure, and Mr Simmons as Alderman and Chairman of Property.
It is not known why Mr Smith and Mr Simmons wanted the signs removed or why they felt it was a matter of “urgent business”. But the four roads listed in the letter ring-fence an area of Hamilton that contains an Elliott Street office owned by Mr Simmons, and his nightclub on Angle Street.
This newspaper was unable to contact Mr Smith, Mr Simmons or Mayor Graeme Outerbridge yesterday.
But Mr Benevides did confirm the incident after The Royal Gazette made a general inquiry without mentioning Mr Smith or Mr Simmons in its questions.
In his response, Mr Benevides also failed to mention that Mr Smith or Mr Simmons were involved in the sabotage.
But he did say he was confident the signs would be returned — and that he did not believe “there will be a reoccurrence of this behaviour”.
“The B[ermuda] P[olive] S[ervice] did assist our inquiries but no formal charge has been made at this time,” Mr Benevides said.
“We are anticipating receiving all the signs in the very near future so we do not expect to have to replace any signs at present.
“It is an offence under the Road Traffic Act to remove a traffic sign without the appropriate authority so I don’t think there will be a reoccurrence of this behaviour.
“The Road Traffic Act says the penalty is as per the Traffic Offences Act 1976 schedule 1 which states if the offence is not specifically identified the penalty is $2100 per offence. “The BPS did assist us with our inquiries and we are anticipating the return of our signs shortly.”
Following that response, this newspaper e-mailed Mr Benevides further questions, asking if Mr Smith and Mr Simmons could face disciplinary action or criminal charges for their actions. We also asked if the Corporation would have pursued the matter had the offences been committed by a member of the public. Mr Benevides replied that he had no further comment.
But the municipality’s Senior Engineer, Ian Hind, said he believed the two officials had breached regulations, and had committed an act of anarchy.
“The Corporation had authority to introduce the new regulations and put up the signs after getting permission from the Minister — it was a resolution passed democratically by the Board which was following all the rules and guidelines,” Mr Hind said.
“So then two members of the Board decide that they don’t like what’s been passed and so decide to do something about it. But it doesn’t matter what they feel about it or whether they change their minds, this was democratically approved by the Board and they had no authority whatsoever to then go against that. It’s wrong. It’s anarchy.”
Mr Hind said that Corporation staff had worked tirelessly to erect hundreds of signs across the city, and would now have to spend more man hours replacing some of them.
And he said that the incident had caused confusion among the motoring public who mistakenly thought that parking zones where signs had been removed were free.
“This has put the staff in an awkward position because you have the council passing a resolution which the staff want to get on and implement — and then one or two elected members decide arbitrarily to change that resolution. We’ve had members of the public phoning up asking what is going on. It makes things extraordinarily difficult and unfair.
“If Mr Smith and Mr Simmons wanted to amend the regulations then they should have had a proper meeting and taken a vote on it. We can’t have this anarchy.”
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