“Thank you to the (hiring) committee for its very hard work.” – Niagara Falls regional councillor Selina Volpatti
A News Brief by Doug Draper, with more news and commentary on this development to come later
October 31st, 2016 on Niagara At Large
Niagara, Ontario – Niagara’s regional government has a new Chief Administrative Officer.
And as rumours going back to late last spring and reaching a crescendo within the past few days would have it, Niagara’s top municipal job – commanding an annual salary of more than $230,000 when the region’s last CAO vacated it early this year – – goes to the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority’s chief administrative officer, Carmen D’Angelo.
Given concerns many Niagara residents have expressed over the direction the Conservation Authority has taken in recent times when it comes to such issues as protecting wetlands and other natural features in the region, D’Angelo’s choice for the job is a controversial one – but it was approved at a hastily called, special session of regional council this October 31st by a vote of 17 to eight.
A discussion over a recommendation to hire D’Angelo on a three-year contract as CAO was discussed behind closed doors before a vote was recorded with those in favour of hiring him voting “YES” and those against voting “NO”.
Here is the vote, as it appeared on the screen for about two dozen Niagara area residents who sat in the regional council chamber’s gallery.
Niagara At Large has learned from sources that as many as 17 individuals applied for the CAO job, with only a few finally making the cut for an interview before a five-member panel of regional council, including Niagara Regional Chair (and former regional councilor from St. Catharines) Al Caslin, recommended D’Angelo for the October 31st vote.
Rumors that D’Angelo was the front-runner for the position accelerated in the hours following this past October 27th’s regular Thursday night regional council meeting, but even a number of regional councilors contacted by Niagara At Large the following day were not able to confirm that the rumours were true.
Those regional councilors, who sat with Caslin on the body that ultimately recommended D’Angelo for the job included Lincoln Mayor Sandra Easton, Welland Mayor Frank Campion, Grimsby regional councilor Tony Quirk and Niagara Falls regional councilor Bob Gale.
Those on regional council who voted against the hiring of D’Angelo included Lincoln regional councillor Bill Hodgson, Pelham Mayor Dave Augustyn, Thorold regional councillor Henry D’Angela (that is D’Angela with an “a” and not to be mistaken for D’Angelo), Thorold Mayor Ted Luciani, St. Catharines regional councillor Brian Heit, St. Catharines regional councillor Kelly Edgar, Welland regional councillor George Marshall and St. Catharines regional councilor Debbie MacGregor.
Niagara-on-the-Lake regional councilor Gary Burroughs and Fort Erie Mayor Wayne Redekopp were absent for the vote.
D’Angelo has served as CAO of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority since May of 2014 after serving on the NPCA’s board and taking a brief leave from the board to do paid contract work for the NPCA aimed at drawing up a plan for restructuring the Authority.
Under his leadership at the Authority, public concerns grew over firing and hiring practices at the NPCA and opposition mounted over the Authority’s interest in trying something called “biodiversity offsetting” on a provincially significant wetland in the southwest end of Niagara Falls where a proposed “Paradise” residencial and commercial development project is planned.
The offsetting, which the developers have since said is no longer on the table for the project, would involve taking out the wetland now on the land and attempting to grow a comparable wetland environment somewhere else – something many say cannot be done with a wetland as old and complex as the one in the NPCA’s sights.
Questions and concerns over operations at the NPCA over the past few years led to a citizens’ request for an independent audit of those operations earlier this year, but a majority of regional councilors – a number of them sitting on the NPCA board – voted down the request.
However, this October 31st, at the same time the regional council was voting on the hiring of D’Angelo for the CAO’s job, Welland Riding MPP Cindy Forster released an open letter she sent to the Ontario government, urging it to conduct an audit on the NPCA.
Niagara At Large has posted the text of Forster’s letter, along with news placing it in context, earlier this October 31st and you can read it by clicking on – https://niagaraatlarge.com/2016/10/31/niagara-mpp-urges-ontario-government-to-subject-niagara-peninsula-conservation-authority-to-a-full-audit/ .
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