Pelham Mayor Dave Augustyn – Candidate for Niagara Regional Chair – Calls for Apologies to Ontario Ombudsman

Identifies a series of other apparent irregularities by current Region Chair and CAO

A News Release from the Campaign to Elect Dave Augustyn Niagara Regional Chair

Posted July 19th 2018 on Niagara At Large

Pelham Mayor and Regional Councillor Dave Augustyn engaged in a debate this term at Niagara Region council meeting.

Niagara, Ontario – Based on new revelations in yesterday’s (July 18th. 2018) Ontario Ombudsman’s final report – Press Pause: Investigation into a meeting of council for the Regional Municipality of Niagara on December 7, 2017 – Mayor Dave Augustyn is calling for a full and frank apology to the Office of the Ombudsman by the current Chair (Al Caslin) and CAO (Carmen D’Angelo) of Niagara Region.

The final report by the Ontario Ombudsman reveals how the Region’s external legal counsel aggressively dealt with the Ombudsman’s office and tried to influence the impartial investigation.

The report states that legal counsel brought an “adversarial approach” to their involvement in the Ombudsman’s investigation on behalf of the Niagara Region [P220].

“The Regional Chair pledged full co-operation with this investigation, but the region’s external counsel, ostensibly on behalf of their client, attempted through its response to influence our investigative process, challenge our well-established statutory authority, and dictate the content of my report,” stated the Ombudsman in his report. [P221]

“I identified the Chair’s and CAO’s early attempts to control this investigation in an email to other Councillors and the Ombudsman’s Office on December 19, 2017,” said Mayor Dave Augustyn. “That’s when I urged all Councillors to fully cooperate with the Ombudsman. Shockingly, yesterday’s report shows that the Chair and CAO used an external lawyer who actively worked against the Ombudsman.”

Niagara Region’s chair Al Caslin with the Region’s CAO, Carmen D’Angelo perched to his right. File photo by Doug Draper

Augustyn highlighted a number of irregularities with the way in which Regional leadership dealt with this important and embarrassing issue.

  • First, the Chair and CAO did not ask nor did Regional Council authorize the hiring of external legal counsel.
  • Second, once the Ombudsman provided his preliminary report in June, the Chair failed to call a special Council meeting to review the report; this meant that Council did not authorize nor provide direction on how the Region was to respond to the Ombudsman.
  • Third, with the absence of explicit Council direction, it must have been the Chair and/or CAO who ultimately provided direction to the external lawyer – including using the adversarial approach as described by the Ombudsman.
  • Fourth, because of these and other violations, the Ombudsman recommends that the Region should report to the public and to his office every six months about progress in implementing his recommendations.

“Sadly, these ongoing embarrassments and negative headlines are what’s wrong at the Region,” said Augustyn.

“Yesterday’s report identifies that the current Chair and CAO acted rashly, heavy-handedly, and violated the rights of a journalist and a citizen. Now, the additional revelation that the Region challenged the Ombudsman’s authority is unacceptable and indefensible.

I urge Council to fully accept and implement all the Ombudsman’s recommendations and the current Chair and CAO to fully and publicly apologize to the Ombudsman and to Niagara’s residents.”

To ready the Ontario Ombudsman’s entire report, click on – https://www.ombudsman.on.ca/Media/ombudsman/ombudsman/resources/Reports-on-Investigations/PressPauseFinal-ENJuly2018.pdf .

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“A politician thinks of the next election. A leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders

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