Niagara Parks’ Police Chief – Hired On a High Note Barely Two Years Ago – Is Suddenly Gone

Top Cop’s departure is just the latest in recent rush of high-office exits in a Niagara where a little less chaos and a little more stability would be nice

A News Commentary from Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper

Posted March 14th, 2019 on Niagara At Large

Mark McMullen, whose hiring as Niagara Parks Police Chief was celebrated when it was announced in May of 2017, was suddenly out of the job this past Monday, March 11th.

As if the heads of Niagara residents aren’t already spinning from four months of sudden departures and firings – not to mention some pretty hefty lawsuits – involving top administrators at Niagara Region and the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA), now we learn through a report this March 12th in local newspapers that Mark McMullen, Niagara Park’s Chief of Police, is suddenly gone.

It was only 22 months ago, that Ontario’s Niagara Parks Commission circulated a news release, announcing McMullen’s hiring to the top cop job at the Parks Police, one of the oldest (circa 1887) and most respected police forces in all of Canada.

“Following an open search and recruitment process, which attracted a strong field of experienced, professional candidates, The Niagara Parks Commission (is) pleased to announce the selection of Mark McMullen as Chief of the Niagara Parks Police Service (NPPS),” read a May, 2017 news release from Niagara Parks about the hiring of McMullen, who, as the news release went on to say, “provided over 30-years of dedicated and distinguished policing and community service to the residents of the Niagara Region and its visitors, most recently as Niagara Regional Police Superintendent.”

According to a report published online this March 12th by The St. Catharines Standard, McMullen “has been fired by the Niagara Parks Commission, which has hired a ‘third-party contractor’ to investigate his conduct (and) Parks police Insp. Paul Forcier has been named acting chief.”

Ontario’s Niagara Parks Police, founded in the 1880s, is one of the oldest police forces of its kind in all of Canada. Niagara Parks file photo

That was about all the newspaper was apparently able to report about the commission’s decision to let McMullen go this past Monday, March 11th and about some “summer incident” it referred to that may have been the reason for his departure.

“The public doesn’t need to know that right now,” David Adames, Niagara Parks acting CAO was quoted telling The Standard of the reason for McMullen’s sudden exit and for not identifying the name of the contractor that has apparently been hired to carry out a third-party investigation of whatever the now former police chief may have done wrong. “What they (the public) need to know is that any complaint we receive is taken very seriously.”

One might suggest that Adames stay away from making what many members of the public may perceive to be high and mighty assertions about what they need or do not need to know – especially after years of the public being told what it did or did not need to know by former parties inside the NPCA and Niagara’s regional government.

It didn’t work very well at the NPCA and the Region, as the house cleaning that took place during last October’s municipal elections clearly showed, and it probably won’t be much of a hit with the public at the Niagara Parks Commission, which up to now, at least, has had a pretty good record when it comes to being open with the public.

To his credit, Adames was quoted telling The Standard that the Parks Commission will release what details it can after an investigation is completed. And this March 13th, Niagara Parks sent Niagara At Large and other media a statement that reads, in part; “Mark McMullen was informed on Monday March 11 that he would no longer be employed by Niagara Parks, as its Chief of Police.

We would like to thank Mark for his contributions to the organization during his time as Chief and we wish him all the best.

As this is an internal Human Resources matter, we will not be commenting any further on this.

As an interim measure, Inspector Paul Forcier of the Niagara Parks Police Service has been appointed Acting Chief of Police.

Niagara Parks will be undertaking a recruitment process for the next Chief of the Niagara Parks Police Service, in the near future.”

This statement doesn’t tell us what alleged circumstances led to McMullen’s exist, but at least it’s a start. And its far more than what we often got within 48 hours of any similar thing happening at the NPCA over the past five or six years up to about a month or so ago.

McMullen’s departure at Niagara Parks follows in the wake of what is arguably an unprecedented number of individuals making sudden exits, for one reason or another, from high positions, including those of chief administrative officer (CAO), at the Region and NPCA – all within the past three or four months.

It is anyone’s guess how much all of this, including those hefty damage suits some of the departed have filed, have shaken confidence in our public institutions and in those entrusted to manage them in this region.

Carmen D’Angelo recently departed from his job as Niagara Region’s  CAO. Within the past three months, Chris Carter, who was the Region’s general manager, and at least two others in executive positions at the Region are also gone.

It is also hard not to keep raising serious questions, as many citizens across Niagara already have, about the processes our public institutions are using these days to select and hire individuals to high-priced and highly important administrative positions.

Hopefully, the people of Niagara will get at least some of the answers in a report Ontario’s Ombudsman Paul Dubé is expected to release any day now about the circumstances around the 2016 hiring of Carmen D’Angelo to the CAO job at the Region – a job he left earlier this year, but not without filing a $1 million-plus claim against the Region for “constructive dismissal.”

We now have the Region and NPCA in the process of selecting new, full-time CAOs, and as of this March 11th, Niagara Parks has begun the search for a new police chief.

At the end of this February, the current board of the NPCA set off on the right path by at least hiring an eminent conservation manager, Gayle Wood, for a five-month period as the agency’s interim CAO.

Would all three bodies, including the Region and Niagara Parks, take a cue from the NPCA’s recruitment of Gayle Wood, and select the best individuals possible to fill their key administrative positions.

After so much chaos and controversy, I am sure that most of us would settle for some good, old-fashion soundness of leadership and stability in public office in Niagara wouldn’t we?

What do you think?

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

 

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