Niagara Regional Council’s August 16th ‘Special Meeting’ Was Mostly A Bust

Where Is The Courage On Council To Call The Ontario Ombudsman In To Investigate CAO Hiring Controversy?

A Commentary by Doug Draper

Posted August 18th, 2018 on Niagara At Large

Was the 2016 process used to hire Niagara Region’s current CAO tainted or corrupted in any way?

Did the Region’s CAO Carmen D’Angelo receive information he should not have when he was applying for the $230,000-a-year job – information that may have given him an unfair advantage over other candidates applying for the same position job?

Was any information of that nature provided to D’Angelo by one or more individuals in Niagara Regional Chair Al Caslin’s office?

How much, if anything did Caslin know about this?

A special meeting of Niagara Region’s council ended this August 16th with questions around hiring of the Region’s CAO left unanswered

Those are among the questions residents across Niagara were hoping to finally learn answers to at the August 16th special meeting that 18 members of the Region’s council petitioned for an d ultimately went ahead with despite objections from Caslin himself.None of the key questions were answered at the meeting though – in no small part because neither D’Angelo or Caslin or any of the other key people who work in his office attended the meeting to assist in any of the answering.

There was not even an attempt by any member of council – at least not in the portion of the meeting that was held in public, (outrageously, a long portion of this meeting took place behind closed doors) – to put a motion on the floor to call the Ontario Ombudsman in to do a totally independent investigation that may finally serve to clear the air, one way or another, around this controversy.

When I put the question to some members of council; “Why not table a motion right now to call in the Ombudsman?’, the answer I received, in so many words, went like this; “We can’t do that now because there is already an investigation under way.”

Questions remain outstanding over the 2016 hiring of this man – Carmen D’Angelo

What these council members are referring to is staff employed by the regional government – staff who ultimately answer, for whatever they do in their jobs, to the CAO – working on an investigation with a university professor from the London, Ontario area who recently revealed in a media interview that he has little or no experience searching computer servers for the kind of information that may have been sent or received by any of the parties at the centre of this controversy.

It is a set up that has citizens across this region bringing up the old story about the fox looking after the hen house more often in the last couple of months than I would care to hear in a lifetime.

In a word, many people out there think this investigation is a joke and they have little or no confidence in it.

So why won’t even one member of the council stand up and say; “This is not an investigation members of the public can have faith in, so let’s bring the Ombudsman in now to do whatever has to be done to clear the air.”

Why wasn’t such a motion tabled in open session this past Thursday (August 17th) night?

So what if Caslin and others want to call whatever it is going on now an “investigation.” Who cares? Let them.

And so what if it is true that it may take a vote by two thirds of the council to pull the plug on whatever is going on now and bring in the Ombudsman.

At least look like you are trying to show some responsibility to the public that put you in there and demand that the Ombudsman come in anyway.

Table a motion to that effect and demand a recorded vote? The citizens of Niagara can then take note of those on the council who voted against it and can take care of them in the upcoming, October 22nd municipal election.

The sense I have from the phone calls and email I now regularly get, and from standing in the grocery store line, is that people are sick and tired of all this and want the council to stop playing in the sandbox and finally take the bull by the horns and get to the bottom of what is going on here.

And getting to the bottom of all this will only happen in a way people can find credible if a third party like the Ombudsman is allowed to come in and do a thorough, independent investigation.

We need Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dubé to do a thorough, independent investigation of the CAO hiring controversy at Niagara Regional Headquarters. Anything less is to risk having the fox taking care of the hen house.

From what at least some of us have observed so far – going back to early April when The St. Catharines Standard published an investigative story raising questions about the integrity of the CAO hiring process – it is still not clear how many members of the Region’s council realize the seriousness of what is going on here.

We are talking about nothing less than the trust and confidence people who pay taxes to the Region can place in the fairness and integrity of the process used to hire people responsible for the proper management of billions of dollars of our money.

After more than three months of playing around with so-called investigations that have done little or nothing to clear the air, it is time for members of this regional council to finally do the right thing or face the wrath of the voters this coming October.

Those who fail to do the right thing deserve all the wrath that comes their way.

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



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