Niagara Residents Will Finally Get A Thorough, Independent Probe Into This Serious Matter
“Given the high volume of public complaints, the request from regional council, the concerns raised publicly by two local MPPs and others, the evident seriousness of the issue and the fact that local efforts to resolve the matter have been exhausted, I have determined that a formal investigation by my office is in the public interest.”- Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dubé
A News Report from Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper
Posted August 30th, 2-18 on Niagara At Large
After many weeks of calls from citizens across Niagara, local MPPs and finally, this past week, Niagara’s regional council, Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dubé announced in a media release this August 30th that he will begin an independent investigations that the process the Region used to hiring the Region’s chief administrative officer (CAO) was corrupted to the advantage of the current individual holding that $230,000-a-year job – Carmen D’Angelo.
The Ombudsman’s announcement also comes after almost five full months of excellent investigative reporting by The St. Catharines Standard – reporting that discovered a growing file of documents produced by staff inside the office of the Region’s Chair Al Caslin and downloaded by D’Angelo containing information that could have given him a significant advantage over other individuals applying, two years ago, for the CAO’s job.
“Our focus … will be on conducting a thorough, evidence-based investigation, and making constructive, feasible recommendations,” said Ombudsman Paul Dubé in his office’s August 3oth media release.
“I am very excited that we now have the Ombudsman coming in to investigate this,” Thorold regional councillor Henry D’Angela, one of a handful of councillors at the Region who has repeatedly called for Ombudman to do a probe, told Niagara At Large in an interview this August 30th.
“Very clearly it will be independent,” added D’Angela,” and it is something I have been pushing for from the onset.”
D’Angela said he is also pleased to see that the Ombudsman will look into more recent questions and concerns over the Region’s Chair, Al Caslin, extending the length of D’Angelo’s contract for the CAO’s job to the year 2022, and writing in a generous buyout package if a future contract decides not to renew the contract.
In a statement released by Niagara Centre MPP Jeff Burch’s constituency office this August 30th, the MPP, who recently wrote an open letter calling for an Ombudsman’s investigation, the MPP said; “its obvious Mr. Dubé feels the concerns raised by Niagara Regional Councillors and area residents warrant full investigation.”
Burch also praised reporters at The St. Catharines Standard for their coverage of the hiring controversy.
“Without their investigation,” said Burch, “the hiring process would have been a done deal and no one would have been aware of these highly questionable activities.”
Pelham Mayor Dave Augustyn, who sits on the Region’s council as mayor and is now running for a seat as a directly elected regional councillor for his municipality, shared the following statement with Niagara At Large; “I am very pleased that the Ontario Ombudsman is investigating this matter. I consistently pushed to get to the bottom of this tainted hiring so that we can clear Region’s reputation.”
“That’s why I supported an investigation in April and voted against closing the matter in June,” Augustyn added. “When more information came forward in July, I supported the special meeting and forwarding this matter to the Ombudsman.”
Augustyn concluded his statement to Niagara At Large with this – “Because of nature of this tainted hiring and the number of hirings that have occurred since, I’m calling for a review of all Regional management hires made under the current CAO and Chair.”
Other regional councillors who stood up for the Ombudman to investigate the CAO hiring, in spite of resistance from members of Caslin’s cabal on the council included Brian Heit, Kelly Edgar and another one of the mayor’s sitting on the Region’s council, St. Catharines’ Walter Sendzik.
Niagara At Large will post their responses to this latest news from the Ombudsman’s Office and responses received from others, if and when they come in. NAL will also have more news and commentary of our own on this matter in the days ahead.
Now here is the August 30th news release from the Ontario Ombudsman’s Office –
ONTARIO OMBUDSMAN TO INVESTIGATE NIAGARA REGION CAO HIRING AND RELATED ISSUES
August 30, 2018
Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dubé today announced he will conduct a formal investigation into matters related to the hiring of the Regional Municipality of Niagara’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO).
(TORONTO – August 30, 2018) Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dubé today announced he will conduct a formal investigation into matters related to the hiring of the Regional Municipality of Niagara’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO).
Mr. Dubé informed the regional municipality (the region) in writing today that he will investigate:
The process followed by the region in the hiring of its CAO;
- The region’s response to concerns about the CAO’s hiring, including the recent investigation by a municipal ombudsman and review by an external governance auditor; and
- The administration of the CAO’s contract, including any extension and amendment.
One week ago, regional council passed a motion to ask the Ombudsman to investigate all matters associated with the hiring of the CAO – and a letter to this effect was delivered to Mr. Dubé yesterday. The Ombudsman’s office has also received 113 complaints in recent months about the CAO’s hiring and the region’s response to the concerns raised.
“Given the high volume of public complaints, the request from regional council, the concerns raised publicly by two local MPPs and others, the evident seriousness of the issue and the fact that local efforts to resolve the matter have been exhausted, I have determined that a formal investigation by my office is in the public interest,” Mr. Dubé said.
However, he stressed that the investigation will take time, and he will not release his findings on this or any other municipal investigations before the October 22 municipal election. “As an impartial, independent office of the legislature, we take care to remain outside of the political fray. Consistent with our practice with regard to Ontario government bodies during the recent provincial election campaign, we will not release any reports related to municipalities during this period,” he said.
“Our focus, as always, will be on conducting a thorough, evidence-based investigation, and making constructive, feasible recommendations.”
The Ombudsman resolves and investigates public complaints about the administration of provincial government organizations and municipalities, universities and school boards, as well as complaints about closed municipal meetings. Since his office’s mandate was extended to include municipalities in 2016, it has received more than 8,000 complaints about them, almost all of which have been resolved without need for formal investigation. This will be the Ombudsman’s sixth investigation of a municipality.
Mr. Dubé’s most recent municipal investigation report, Press Pause, released in June, also involved the Regional Municipality of Niagara, which he found unfairly seized the property of a journalist and a citizen blogger during a council meeting in December 2017.
To read the latest investigate report in The St. Catharines Standard on this, click on – https://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/news-story/8868911-all-the-chair-s-men-cao-hiring-process-tainted-before-it-started/
To read a recent Niagara At Large post, calling an end to Al Caslin sitting in the regional chair seat, click on – https://niagaraatlarge.com/2018/08/29/niagaras-regional-councillors-should-do-whatever-they-can-to-press-al-caslin-to-resign-from-councils-top-job/ .
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