A News Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper
Posted July 11th, 2018 on Niagara At Large
I often find myself driving home from meetings of Niagara regional council, haunted by at least two questions.
The first question is this; ‘How many people out there are paying attention to the disturbing things going down at these meetings?
It’s a question that almost always comes to mind because so much of what goes down at these meetings is dark, divisive, dis-spiriting and, most certainly, disturbing.
The second question is this; ‘How many people care?’
If the answer to both these questions is not many more than the handful of good people who show up in front of the Niagara regional headquarters with protest signs then, in all due respect to those good people, I might just as well stop wasting my time writing these commentaries and spend more of it learning a few new songs to play on my guitar.
Then low and beholden, I go to my inbox and find a whole bunch of messages from people across Niagara, noting that they have shared whatever disturbing story I happened to go home and write about from these meetings with their friends and associates on social media.
Even more encouraging are the comments I receive for sharing with our growing Niagara At Large audience from people I don’t even know – comments like the one I wish to highlight below, which contains a list of questions that still need to be asked about the findings a Toronto lawyer, hired by Niagara’s regional government, reached about the hiring, in the fall of 2016, of Carmen D’Angelo to the $230,000 a year job as the Region’s chief administrative officer (CAO).
The lawyer, Marvin Huberman, told Niagara’s regional council at its July 5th meeting that there was nothing wrong or tainted with the way the Region ran a hiring process that led to D’Angelo winning the job over a field of candidates.
Huberman arrived at that conclusion while waving aside as hearsay the contents of a lengthy investigative story published in The St. Catharines Standard this past April where the newspaper reported that it had evidence that D’Angelo obtained confidential information about a month before he was hired that could have given him an advantage over other candidates in the hiring process.
Niagara regional councillors were arguably at a disadvantage in asking Huberman questions about the findings in the 43-page report he tabled at the July 5th council meeting because they were not given copies of the report to review in advance.
As it turned out, only a handful of regional councillors – most notably St. Catharines representative Brian Heit, Thorold representative Henry D’Angela (with an “a”) and Dave Augustyn, a mayor of Pelham who sits on the regional council – asked Huberman probing questions before a majority on the council voted to accept the lawyer’s findings and draw a close to the CAO hiring matter.
Why a majority on the regional council would vote so soon after receiving Huberman’s lengthy report for the first time to accept his conclusions and close the curtains speaks, in this journalist’s view, to how weak and willing to roll over and play dead too many on the council have been for the past three and a half years since Al Caslin took charge as the Region’s chair.
However gutless a majority on the council may be, however, there is no reason why members of the news media and why citizens across this Niagara region should stop searching for more information and raising questions that should be asked about this whole CAO hiring affair.
And there are at least some citizens out there who say they are not prepared to let this issue go which, after all, involves the hiring of the top publicly funded administrative position in all of Niagara.
That brings me back to feedback I receive on this matter from fellow citizens across this region and to some of the email and comments I have received as a reporter and a publisher of Niagara At Large.
What follows is a comment I posted below a July 7th commentary I wrote after Huberman’s appearance at the July 5th regional council meeting, and that I am reprising here. It was sent to Niagara At Large by Rob DePetris, a citizen in the region, and contains a list of the kind of questions I believe we should continue to ask and insist on getting answers to, even if a majority of our regional councillors have crapped out on us on this one.
Here is Rob DePetris’s comment –
“I watched the (July 5th) council meeting and reviewed the report. I did not understand the following
1. Why was a person involved in the alleged issue chairing the meeting? Seems to me that there is a conflict of interest here.
2. If Mr. Huberman felt that some staff and other councillors are afraid or bullied by others, then why would he think it feasible that they would go on the record with their evidence?
3. Why did council have to rule on report just after seeing it? Seems more prudent to study it and then have time to consider
4. Why didn’t they ask Ms. Norio, the acting clerk, what she did to contact witnesses for the probe?
5. Why didn’t Mr.Huberman get a record of all emails sent and received from Mr. D’Angelo’s phone? Although the phone was stolen, seems that email would still be out there. In the end it appears he did not use much of his investigative powers but rather talked to people and took them at their word.”
Good for Rob DePetris for exercising his rights and responsibilities as a citizen and raising those questions and more.
The rest of us across this Niagara region should take a cue from his list of questions and continue to raise them and more, and insist on getting all the answers we need from the powers that be in our regional government so that we can truly put this serious matter to rest.
Some of you out there must have questions of your own on this CAO hiring issue, and there must be some of you who can provide the public with more information.
Please do it. That is what the democracy for which so many past generations of Canadians fought and died is there for.
To read a recent news commentary posted on Niagara At Large on this matter, click on – https://niagaraatlarge.com/2018/07/07/investigator-hired-by-niagara-region-clears-region-of-any-wrongdoing-in-hiring-of-cao/ .
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