The Residents Of Niagara Should Not Have To Endure Another Two Months Of This Individual At The Helm
A News Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper
Posted August 29th, 2018 on Niagara At Large
Earlier this August, when a majority of Niagara regional councillors finally showed enough spine to do what they should have done months ago – petition the Region’s Chair, Al Caslin, for a “special meeting” of council, dedicated to getting to the bottom of charges of corruption swirling around the hiring of the Region’s CAO, Carmen D’Angelo – Caslin had the gall to fire back with an email, accusing at least some of those councillors of “disingenuous politicking.”
In the same email, dripping with an insolence we’ve come to expect from this Chair over the past four years, Caslin reminded the councillors of a closed session of council that most, if not all of them attended on July 26th, before telling them; “You all had two hours last meeting (a council meeting held on July 26th) to speak candidate to Carm.”
“I encourage you to focus on the important community issues before us including: lowering taxes and bring quality jobs to Niagara,” Caslin went on to instruct with all of the grace of a school marm. “I will not be calling another meeting to talk about the same tabloid stories that have already been thoroughly investigated and decided upon by a third party investigation that has cost the taxpayers of Niagara dearly.”
The August 16th special session of council went forward, of course, because enough councillors signed the petition to keep Caslin from stopping it. But D’Angelo (or “Carm” as the Chair more cozily called him in his email), along with Caslin himself, and key members of his office staff, who may have helped answer pressing questions about information D’Angelo may or may not have received that might have given him an advantage in securing the CAO job, turned out to be a no show.
Another special meeting was held on August 23rd and this time the council did one of the things it should have done back in April, when The St. Catharines Standard published the first of a number of stories that raised serious questions about the integrity of the 2016 process used to hire D’Angelo. It voted unanimously to call Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dube to come in and do a thorough and independent investigation of the hiring.
At the same August 23rd meeting, where a decidedly obstinate Caslin was finally persuaded to relinquish the Chair’s seat while a discussion of the CAO hiring controversy continued, he confirmed, under councillors’ questioning, some of the information that had been leaked to the news media several days earlier – that he had unilaterally extended the contract for D’Angelo’s $230,000-a-year CAO’s job from three years with an option of two addition years, all the way through to the year 2022.
Then, thanks to a front-page story in this August 28th’s Standard, we now find out that on top of taking it upon himself to extend the length of the contract – an action that may hopefully be found null and void because it was never put before the council for approval – we find out that not only did Caslin act unilaterally to do that, he also made it his business to write in an additional year’s salary for D’Angelo (not a bad ‘golden parachute’ at a cost to Niagara’s taxpayers of $230,000) if a future council should choose not to renew his contract past 2022.
How much more do we need to know? Enough of this, already!
The Standard’s editorial board posted an editorial in its online edition this August 28th – an editorial expected to appear in its print edition this August 29th and available to read by clicking a link below – calling on Caslin to resign from the Chair’s seat because he has lost the “moral authority” to lead.
The newspaper’s editorial – far from being a “tabloid” piece or whatever else some of the sycophants, stooges and lap dogs who routinely support him on the council may choose to call it – is well supported by what has been recorded and learned of this Caslin-led council over the past four or five months, and over the past four years, and it is thoughtful and fair in this veteran journalist’s view.
And given all of what this journalist and others have observed since 2014, when Caslin elected to Chair’s position by a majority on the council, Niagara At Large wholeheartedly supports The Standard’s call, along with similar calls from growing numbers of citizens across Niagara, for his resignation from that post.
Going back to the snarky email message Caslin sent to councillors earlier this August, what is truly “disingenuous” is Caslin imploring them to get past the CAO hiring controversy and move on to issue the public care about like controlling taxes and creating quality jobs.
No term of regional council in the past almost 40 years that I have worked as a news reporter in Niagara has been more divisive and dysfunctional, and so polluted with political in-fighting and insulting and condescending treatment of delegations that attempt to address it on issues of concern to members of the community than this one, chaired by Al Caslin.
Caslin says the council should get back to focusing on issues like taxes. Well then, let’s talk taxes right now.
Thousands upon thousands of residents and businesses across Niagara are due to pay another installment of their property taxes at the end of this August – a significant percentage of which go to our regional government.
For that reason alone, we deserve much better than what we are watching play out now at the Region for our money.
As of the posting of this commentary, there are 54 days left until October 22nd, when voters across Niagara go to the polls to elect new local and regional councils. Yet there is no reason why we should have to wait that long to address they very serious leadership issue at the regional level.
As of today, a majority on this regional council should make a pledge to all of us who live and pay taxes in Niagara, that they will do everything possible – as soon as possible – to expedite Caslin’s resignation and to get a definitive ruling on the validity of whatever changes Caslin made to D’Angelo’s contract, even while the province’s Ombudsman Office hopefully launches an investigation of its own.
A resolution to this controversy in a Niagara Region that certainly has other challenges it should be focusing more attention on, could not come soon enough.
To read The St. Catharines Standard’s editorial, calling for Al Caslin to resign from his position as Niagara Region’s Chair, click on – https://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/opinion-story/8866298-editorial-time-for-caslin-to-resign/#.W4WrSe2OPOU.twitter
To read another recent commentary on this issue, posted on Niagara At Large, click on – https://niagaraatlarge.com/2018/08/25/al-caslin-runs-niagaras-regional-government-like-a-dictatorship/ .
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