After all the Outcry For and Against Niagara Region’s CAO leading a trade mission to China, the Punch Line is this. He Didn’t Go!

Niagara’s new Regional Council could not be sworn in soon enough

A Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher           Doug Draper

Posted November 12th, 2018 on Niagara At Large

What?!!!

The last meeting of the Al Caslin-led Niagara regional council – Thursday, November 1st, 2018, could not end without another in a series of debates over what’s up with the Region’s CAO, Carmen D’Angelo. Photo by Doug Draper

After another insufferable hour of Niagara regional council taken up over what to do with or about the Region’s controversial CAO Carmen D’Angelo – this time over whether or not this character should lead a trade mission to China while the legitimacy of his very hiring is now being investigated by the Ontario Ombudsman’s Office – D’Angelo did not jump aboard the plane China after all.

That news comes this November 12th from St. Catharines Standard reporter Grant LaFleche who, for several months now, has been doing a yeoman’s job of uncovering information, including hard documents, that raise serious questions and concerns about the integrity of the process used to hire D’Angelo to the CAO’s job in the first place. LaFleche then, uncovered enough information to finally have D’Angelo and the Region’s outgoing chair, Al Caslin, confirm that they later were involved in extending the CAO’s three year contract for another couple of years without the full regional council’s knowledge or approval.

This past November 1st, while Caslin’s outgoing regional council was holding the last meeting of its four –year term following the shellacking Caslin and many of the councillors took in the October 1st municipal elections, the issue of D’Angelo leading this China trade mission with a group of Niagara companies came up after news of it also surfaced in LaFeleche’s reporting.

After all the back-and-forth debate, Niagara Region’s CAO Carmen D’Angelo – now the subject of an ongoing probe into the process used to hire him to the Region’s top job – did not lead this month’s trade mission to China. A full explanation for why he did not go has not yet been given.

The November 1st meeting was only supposed to last a half an hour or so – enough time for an unprecedented number of outgoing councillors to share a few parting words – but dragged on significantly longer  thanks to the better of an hour’s worth of debate over whether D’Angelo should go on this mission at all while the very legitimacy of his hiring to the CAO’s job is the subject of an ongoing probe.

At the head of the debate, D’Angelo said he decided not to go on the November 6th to 10th trip due to all of what he called the “distraction” that news of it caused. But lo and behold, just enough members of the Region’s council, including Caslin and most of the usual ones that supported hiring the former Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA) CAO to the $230,000-a-year chief administrative job at the Region in the first, rallied around him, and he was China bound again.

Then there is this latest news in The Standard, with no reply to a question from the newspaper as to why he didn’t go – not that there was ever much of a record of  D’Angelo or Caslin, or others in their camp, sharing explanations for what is going inside our regional government with the local media.

This latest episode the ongoing saga of D’Angelo at the Region has a number of things flashing through this reporter’s mind.

First of all, thank every God people across Niagara pray to that this Caslin term of council is finally over. It’s end could not have come soon enough for all of the damage done to the Region’s reputation locally, and across the country when it comes to stories about confiscating a newspaper reporter’s notes and computer, and a record of operating in ways that have been secretive, and not open and accountable enough to public, and even to all members of the council.

Second, the hour spent this past November 1st, frittered away over what to do about D’Angelo vis-à-vis this China trip, brings back to mind all of the countless hours burned away over the past four years over other matters involving D’Angelo’s contract and his hiring, and over all of the code of conduct complaints made against one member of the council or another, or the year-long witch hunt against now out-going Pelham Mayor Dave Augustyn and his council over how they handled their town’s finances, and on and on.

As this sign, held by one of many protesters in front of Niagara Region’s headquarters over the past two years, shows, D’Angelo has been a figure of controversy at the Region going back to his hiring two years ago.

All of this time that could have and should have been spent on strategies for creating more decent paying jobs in Niagara, building a better transit system, providing more affordable housing, reforming the Region’s tree-cutting and protection bylaw – just to mention a few of the challenges that should be receiving more attention.

When the new regional council is sworn in this December, I am sure I am not the only Niagara resident who hopes they will finally work together as a functional team to give these challenges the attention they deserve.

Yet there is the unfinished business of getting to the bottom of the hiring controversy and D’Angelo’s job contract, and taking appropriate action to put this whole episode behind us, once and for all.

While the new council is at it, there should be a thorough review of other key personnel Caslin and company have hired over the past four years, even as we were also seeing many members of staff who in many, many cases we have no reason to believe were doing anything less than a good, responsible job, leaving the Region.

Niagara’s regional government is responsible for a budget totalling more than a billion dollars a year and we need to make sure we have the best people possible in administrative positions to see that our tax dollars are spent effectively and responsibly.

The new term of the Region’s council cannot begin too soon.

Read the latest story in The St. Catharines Standard on D’Angelo and the China trade mission by clicking on https://www.stcatharinesstandard.ca/news-story/9029509-d-angelo-missed-china-trade-mission/ .

Read a recent news commentary Niagara At Large posted on the last meeting of Caslin’s regional council and a motion narrowly passed  to let D’Angelo go on the trade mission by clicking on https://niagaraatlarge.com/2018/11/03/china-bound-niagara-regions-carmen-dangelo-to-follow-in-the-steps-of-marco-polo-2/ .

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

 

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