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Mayor to meet with union officials after firing threat incident

Hamilton Mayor Graeme Outerbridge is to meet with union officials today after Corporation councillors allegedly threatened to have an employee sacked because she refused to pay them for attending committee meetings.

And The Royal Gazette understands that elected officials voted to pay themselves a “stipend” for attending meetings despite being advised by lawyers that they did not have the authority to do so.

Last month, five of the Corporation's nine elected members voted to pay themselves $375 each for every municipality board meeting they attended, and an additional $175 for every committee meeting. They voted that the payments should be backdated to May, 2012, when the Team Hamilton administration was voted into office, netting them tens of thousands of dollars in back pay.

More details about the threat of dismissal, which was made against a senior administrator last Thursday, have now emerged.

It is understood that Mr Outerbridge approached the administrator independently and asked that she write out a cheque for backdated payments.

When that request was refused, Mr Outerbridge left the office. But he returned shortly after, accompanied by Alderman Carlton Simmons, Councillor Keith Davis, and later by Deputy Mayor Donal Smith. It was at this second confrontation that threat against the administrator was allegedly made.

The Royal Gazette understands that a letter was written to the officer demanding to know if Corporation Secretary Ed Benevides had ever authorised her to produce cheques to pay councillors.

And it was the Mayor who called for today's meeting with the Bermuda Public Service Union to discuss the incident.

Last month Mayor Outerbridge attempted to justify the payment vote by claiming that he intended to discuss the resolution with Home Affairs Minister Michael Fahy before it was implemented.

But in 2009 lawyers advised the municipality that any vote approving remuneration would be unlawful.

“It is our view that any decision by the Corporation to remunerate its members could be struck down as ultra vires on the basis that this is beyond the powers of the Corporation and not a purpose incidental to the general administration of the Corporation,” a letter from a local law firm concluded.

Last week Government insisted that, under new legislation, councillors are entitled to $50 payments for attending meetings, but that the payments could only be backdated to last month, when the law was signed off by the Governor.

City of Hamilton Mayor Graeme Outerbridge

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Published November 04, 2013 at 8:00 am (Updated November 03, 2013 at 11:09 pm)

Mayor to meet with union officials after firing threat incident

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