Niagara Regional Councillors Must Finally Stand Up For Region’s People And Fire CAO Now!
A Brief Foreword by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper
Posted July 25, 2018 on Niagara At Large
Three weeks ago this Thursday, July 26th – at a Niagara regional council meeting on July 5th – a majority of those elected to sit on the council voted to close the books on serious questions swirling around the hiring of the most powerful and highest paid administrative officer we have in municipal government in this Niagara region.
A majority of the directly elected regional councillors and mayors sitting on that Niagara Region council voted to close the book on the matter.
They did so despite the fact that Marvin Huberman – a Toronto lawyer, handpicked for hire by senior parties at the Region – acknowledged under questioning that he did not resort to using all of the powers he had under the Ontario Ombudsman’s Act to get to the bottom of concerns raised about the possible tainting of a process used to hire Carmen D’Angelo, a former CAO for the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, to a three-year-contract in October of 2016 to serve as the Region’s CAO.
Disappointingly, and I would say quite irresponsibly, a majority of the council members voted to approve Huberman’s 43-page report – a report that exonerated the hiring process – despite the fact that they had not got a chance to review or to even get their hands on a copy of the report until Huberman actually began presenting it at the council meeting.
I long ago lost count of the number of times a majority on the council voted to defer making a decision on a report far shorter and far less serious than this one because they wanted more time to review it.
But for some reason that has certainly raised suspicions among at least a segment of the public, a majority on the council felt a need to rush to judgement on a matter that involves nothing less than the hiring of a chief administrative officer that commands a salary of more than $200,000 a year and plays a lead role in overseeing a budget worth more than a billion a year.
A majority on the council rushed to put the whole matter to bed despite a detailed investigative story by St. Catharines Standard reporter Grant LaFleche last April, point to well-placed sources that had to remain anonymous and to documentation providing information that deserved far more consideration than it received from them and the hired lawyer.
In fact, Huberman went so far as to characterize the information in The Standard story as hearsay, to which one regional councillor who did not vote to approve the lawyer’s report on July 5th commented later, he might just as well have called it “fake news.”
I’ve been a professional journalist for close to 40 years and spent a good deal of that time obtaining leaked information from Canadian and U.S. government agency sources to expose the dirty operations of some of the largest corporate polluters in the Great Lakes, and I can assure you, you don’t dare based stories like that on hearsay – not if you want to avoid going to court and possibly going to jail.
The same is true of stories that raise serious questions about the hiring of an important or powerful government official, and I have no reason to believe that Standard report Grant LaFleche did not do his due diligence with respect to the sources he interviewed and other information he obtained for use in this story.
This July 25th, The Standard posted online a follow-up story by Grant LaFleche – a piece that will appear in the print edition this July 26th, just hours before the regional council meets again to discuss other disturbing questions that include the way D’Angelo handled a suspicion last December that a closed session of the council this past December.
This latest story details even more information that raises questions about how clean and credible the hiring process was for the CAO position.
This Standard story, headlined; “ALL THE CHAIR’S MEN: D’Angelo got CAO interview questions, answers written by Caslin’s staff”, begins like this –
“The Standard has discovered more evidence of documents that appear to have compromised the 2016 Niagara Region chief administrative officer hiring process.
Further investigation by The Standard has found Carmen D’Angelo downloaded documents written by the staff of Regional Chair Alan Caslin that contained interview questions and answers and confidential information about other candidates.
One document, written by Caslin’s then-director of communications, Jason Tamming — now director of strategic communications for the Region — provides suggested answers to questions D’Angelo had to address in a written presentation to the CAO hiring committee. Many of those suggestions were used, sometimes verbatim, in D’Angelo’s presentation which also has been obtained by The Standard.
“A local expert on recruiting for government agencies said information about candidates and interview questions are kept strictly confidential to protect the legitimacy of a hiring process. …
“The Standard verified who wrote the documents, when they were written and when D’Angelo downloaded them, using authoring information embedded in the documents and other digital data obtained by The Standard. Memos containing the names of other CAO candidates were further verified by contacting them to confirm they had been part of the process.
As with the document the newspaper first reported on in April, these memos were written in Microsoft Word and do not contain the letterhead of the Region or the Phelps Group, the firm hired to run the hiring process. The documents were written between Sept. 20 and Oct. 10, 2016, and were all downloaded by D’Angelo before his Oct. 12 interview with the selection committee.
One memo, titled “Messaging” was written by D’Amboise and contains confidential information about a further three CAO candidates. As a result, D’Angelo had information on seven other people applying for the position.
The second document titled “Questions (Revised)” containing interview questions for the CAO job was also written by D’Amboise.
The third memo, written by Tamming was downloaded twice by D’Angelo on Oct. 8, 2016, with the titles “Q&A” and “JT Q&A Suggestions” and provides suggested answers for D’Angelo’s written presentation.”
If you have any plans to vote in the coming October 22nd municipal elections or to work, in any way, on campaigns for the elections, I urge you to read Grant LaFleche’s whole story.
In fact, show local journalism and, in this case, The Standard, a little support for doing this story by actually buying a copy of the newspaper this July 26th to read the whole piece on paper.
After you’ve finished reading it, contact your mayor and members of regional council and urge them to stand up for taxpayers and at long last do something about this CAO and other key figures involved in this matter.
The people of our Niagara region need a government that is focused in building communities that are healthier and more prosperous for all of us. We have got to put an end to the dark and division garbage that has stained this term of Niagara regional council NOW!
To read the latest investigative piece by St. Catharines Standard reporter Grant LaFleche on the CAO hiring issue, click on – https://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/news-story/8762545-all-the-chair-s-men-d-angelo-got-cao-interview-questions-answers-written-by-caslin-s-staff/ .
Click on the following links for recent news commentary posted in Niagara At Large on this matter –
Here is information on who on the Niagara regional council voted in October of 2016 to hire Carmen D’Angelo to the position of Niagara Region CAO and who didn’t. Those on the screen below who have ‘Yes’, lit up in green beside their name, voted for D’Angelo. –
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.
To read the October 31st, 2016 report in Niagara At Large on the vote, click on – https://niagaraatlarge.com/2016/11/01/conservation-authoritys-cao-carmen-dangelo-lands-niagaras-top-administrative-job/
Finally, here is a list of email addresses for current members of Niagara’s regional council that you can use to push for action –
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For more news and commentary from Niagara At Large – an independent, alternative voice for our greater bi-national Niagara region – become a regular visitor and subscriber to NAL at www.niagaraatlarge.com .