A former city councillor in Hamilton, Ont., is accusing municipal staff of covering up the fact that the former leader of a neo-Nazi group has been working in the city’s information technology department for the past decade.
Matthew Green was the city’s first black councillor, representing Hamilton’s impoverished inner-city Ward 3 for a single term, and is planning to run for the NDP in the next federal election.
In an emailed statement to The CJN, Green said he was “disgusted” to learn a hate-monger “has infiltrated the City of Hamilton’s IT department and with it had back end access to all my political and by extension personal online information.”
Green’s anger was ignited by the recent revelation that Marc Lemire, an acknowledged white supremacist and former leader of the Heritage Front, a virulent neo-Nazi organization, has been working for a decade as a senior IT analyst for the city, a position that gives him access to sensitive online information about city employees and activities. News of the discovery was first reported by the online news site Vice.
Green complained that during his time on council, he was often provided with sensitive and confidential information by city staff and residents about their experiences with racism in the city. Allowing someone with ties to white supremacist and racist groups “complete and undetectable access” to that information amounts to a breach of public trust, he said.
Even more disturbing, he added, is that it appears as though city staff tried to cover up Lemire’s employment by removing him from organizational charts, the telephone and email directories and IT staff reports.
“I find it unfathomable that the most senior city staff, the city’s HR department and all the way up to the city manager did not know about (the) employment and perceived threat of Marc Lemire,” Green wrote. “Based on my observations of these types of internal corporate crises, the chain of command would have been briefed in detail about this individual and the great lengths to which some within the corporation must have gone to keep him from the public eye. The reputational risk would have been far too high to not know.”
During his four years on city council, Green said he and his family “were subjected to two very serious instances of criminal harassment and death threats leading to criminal charges, as well as numerous other online threats and harassment,” experiences he said should have merited a personal briefing by city staff about Lemire’s employment.
“So having never been made aware of Marc Lemire’s employment and senior placement as an IT analyst, I feel betrayed by our former city manager … the various directors and senior staff who must have all been in the know and yet wilfully kept this potential threat from me,” he said.
“Given Marc Lemire’s ties to violent white supremacist organizations, I feel that both my family and I were placed in a serious undue risk of harm. At the very least I would have expected and rightly deserved a private and confidential briefing from our city manager and the director of human resources as was typically the case with instances of HR matters relating to identifiable individuals of potential public interest.”
The entire incident, Green added, “leads me to the fear that there may be other white supremacists who have infiltrated other aspects of our local government and associated services. With the sudden emergence of the white nationalist figure Paul Fromm, it begs the question of whether or not there is far more reaching organization of far-right white supremacists in the Hamilton area.”
Fromm, who has supported Holocaust deniers Ernst Zundel and Monika and Alfred Schaefer, and who once shared a stage with former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke, ran unsuccessfully for mayor of Hamilton in the last municipal election. He also worked with Lemire on a campaign that blamed immigrants for an Ebola scare in the city.
Green said he is “considering all legal avenues of investigation,” to determine if his digital files were improperly accessed, or whether there were any breaches of privacy legislation.
City staff have promised a “thorough” investigation of the Lemire revelation.
In an emailed statement, city human resources director Lora Fontana said that, “While we cannot comment on personnel matters, we can say that we do take allegations of inappropriate behaviour or possible misconduct very seriously, and we want to assure our staff and the public that we are conducting a thorough investigation into this matter.
“It is important that we take a measured approach to the investigation to ensure we gain a deeper understanding of the situation, determine the facts and remain respectful of all concerns and parties throughout the process.
“In the event that the investigation substantiates a policy violation, appropriate action will be taken.”
In its initial report, Vice said Lemire was hired around 2005 and described him as “best known for running hate-filled websites and fighting a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal complaint over a racist and homophobic blog post hosted on one of his sites.” He was also credited with creating one of the world’s first online message boards for white supremacists. The 44-year-old is also the founder of Freedomsite.org, which, until recently, hosted articles focused on minorities and immigration.
In emails to the Hamilton Spectator and CHCH TV, Lemire denied he was a leader of the Heritage Front, adding that he hasn’t been involved in “any politics for many years” and is “completely out of the political spectrum.” He also described himself as “a well-regarded IT professional” who has “always conducted” himself “with the highest integrity.”
Lemire has never been convicted of a hate crime.