A Commentary by Niagara at Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper
Posted September 4th, 2018 on Niagara At Large
No sooner did Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dube announce his decision this August 30th to investigate questions swirling around the 2016 hiring of Niagara Region’s CAO Carmen D’Angelo and Regional Chair Al Caslin’s unilaterally move to extend and sweeten the terms of D’Angelo contract, but Port Colborne regional councillor fired out an email to others on the council that said this –
“Contrary to what we were told at the last Council meeting, I see that the extension of the contract is clearly listed in the Ombudsman’s scope – therefore, the Region should cease all discussion on all matters relating to the hiring of the CAO and the contract extension as it is being investigated.
Please ensure these matters do not appear on our agenda as it is completely inappropriate to discuss matters relating to an active investigation by the Ombudsman of Ontario.
Thank you, David”
This note comes from the same David Barrick who earlier in August, at a special meeting called by a majority on the Region’s council to get to the bottom of questions around whether or not the process used to hire D’Angelo two years ago was compromised or corrupted, accused some of the councillors who are demanding answers of engaging in “election politics” and a “Salem witch hunt.”
No doubt Barrick knows something about witch hunts.
He is one of the regional councillors who, a year ago this spring, launched a prolonged inquisition against Pelham Mayor Dave Augustyn and his council over the Town of Pelham’s finances – an inquisition that ultimately turned up little or nothing of any real significance.
Where did Barrick get the idea, this time out, that regional councillors should not be asking more questions or demanding more answers about the hiring of D’Angelo’s and the status of his contract while the Ombudsman is doing his own independent investigation of these matters?
Is this his own idea or did he possibly come to him after consulting others, including some of the Region’s internal lawyers or from outside lawyers who have so far not inspired a great deal of public confidence when it comes to getting to the bottom of this controversial affair?
Whatever drove Barrick to fire off his email, hopefully no member of regional councillor who is sincerely trying to get answers for the constituents they serve in this Niagara region should take his assertion that it would be “completely inappropriate” to discuss or ask questions about these matters while the Ombudsman is investigating at face value.
There have been plenty of Ombudman’s investigations over the years, including one into questions of whether the constitutional rights of citizens, including citizens in Niagara, were violated at G-20 protests in Toronto a decade ago, and a more recent one involving the seizure of a Standard reporter’s computer and notes. and his ejection from Niagara’s regional headquarter last December, and that didn’t stop politicians or any members of the public from raising questions or concerns of their own while the investigations were going on.
On the question of D’Angelo’s hiring and the unilateral changes Caslin or others in the Chair’s office made to his contract, the public would certainly not know as much as they know today about these very serious matters involving the employment of the highest administrative officer in municipal government in this region had it not been for brave whistleblowers and a local newspaper that has done a good job of investigating this whole affair.
Barrick and others can call it a witch hunt or electioneering politics all they want. Members of the public in the region quite simply have a right to get answers as soon as possible on issues that involves hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars of their tax money.
If Barrick doesn’t know that, maybe he hasn’t been to the same grocery stores or coffee shops or parks in the region where I and others have been this spring and summer, and where all someone has to do is mention D’Angelo’s or Caslin’s name to hear how livid people are over all of the delays and bumbling efforts made at the regional level to date to get to the bottom of what is going on here.
People are hopping mad and they are demanding answers. And they expect their councillors to do everything they can to get those answers now.
It is high-time Barrick and some of his pals on the regional council stand down, and stop trying to delay or stop others who are making an effort to get to the bottom of this controversy over D’Angelo’s hiring and the current status of his contract on behalf of the citizens of Niagara who are, unfortunately, paying for all of this.
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