Niagara Investigation is Just One of Many  Making for a “Historic Year” for Ontario Ombudsman in 2018-2019

A Report on Ombudsman’s Findings from  Investigation into circumstances surrounding hiring  of former Niagara Region CEO Carmen D’Angelo and his contract with Region is now being prepared for public release

Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dubé is close to releasing his report on the Niagara Region CEO hiring affair

‘Complaints about municipalities – which were added to the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction in 2015-2016, along with school boards and universities – increased 20%, to 3,002. As in previous years, almost all were resolved without formal investigation (the sole new investigation launched, into the controversial hiring of Niagara Region’s chief administrative officer, is ongoing) – but the report cites several cases that resulted in improvements to local administration.’                                                                                        – from a June 25th, 2019 news release from the Office of the Ontario Ombudsman

A Brief Foreword e from Doug Draper, followed by a news release from the Office of  Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dubé on the Office’s 2018-2019 Annual Report

Posted June 25th, 2019 on Niagara At Large

Almost 10 months have passed since Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dubé agreed to launch an independent investigation into the 2016 hiring of Carmen D’Angelo, then the CEO of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA), to the top municipal job in Niagara – chief executive officer of Niagara’s regional government.

A team from the Ontario Ombudsman’s Office has spent the past 10 months investigating questions circulating around the hiring of former Niagara Region CAO Carmen D’Angelo, and ongoing questions around his t contract with the Region. The findings of that investigation are now close to being  released.

With the release of his annual report this June 25th – outlining one of the busiest caseloads of complaints the Ombudsman’s Office has invested in its 43 history – Dubé also let it be known that a report on the findings of that investigation into the D’Angelo affair is now being worked on for public release.

Dubé’s investigation into this highly controversial matter may never have been launched without the following:  

  • an outpouring of questions and concerns raised by citizens across Niagara – at least some of whom  who questioned D’Angelo’s hiring from the moment they learned his name was on the list for the job;
  • a handful and, unfortunately, largely outnumbered group of Niagara regional councillors who demonstrated the wisdom and the courage to vote against the hiring of D’Angelo in the first place;
  • and without dogged digging by the news media, most particularly by the St. Catharines Standard, its lead investigative reporter Grant LaFleche and by reporter Bill Sawchuk, who regularly covers regional council.

Both LaFleche and Sawchuk, along with the paper, took a lot of heat from D’Angelo, then Niagara regional chair Al Caslin and others during the close to two-and-a-half years that this affair was in progress.

We will soon find out who will take the heat when the Ombudsman’s report and findings are release. Niagara At Large will be posting the report’s findings as soon as they are available.

Stay tuned.

Shown here in 2018, then Niagara Region CEO Carmen D’Angelo and then-Niagara Regional Chair Al Caslin, who, publicly at least, strongly supported D’Angelo. Caslin went down to defeat in last October’s municipal elections.

Now here is the news release and a link for Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dubé’s Annual Report for 2018-2019, released this June 25th

2018-2019 ANNUAL REPORT: OMBUDSMAN RECORDS ONE OF “BUSIEST YEARS” IN OFFICE’S HISTORY

June 25, 2019

Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dubé today (this June 25th) reported on an historic year in which his office handled a 30% surge in complaints and saw its mandate expanded for the second time in four years.

COMPLAINTS UP 30%, JURISDICTION EXPANDED TO NEW AREAS ANNUAL REPORT 2018-2019

TORONTO – Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dubé today reported on an historic year in which his office handled a 30% surge in complaints and saw its mandate expanded for the second time in four years.

In his fourth Annual Report as Ombudsman, Mr. Dubé details the highlights of the 27,419 complaints his office received from the public in 2018-2019, and updates numerous investigations and case resolutions related to provincial government bodies, municipalities, universities and school boards.

(To view a video of the Ombudsman discussing the release of this report, click on the screen below.)

The Ombudsman and staff not only helped the public and bureaucrats with issues arising from the impact of significant political changes in 2018, they worked to promote the rights of a wide range of Ontarians, from social assistance recipients to transgender and Indigenous inmates, to journalists, Mr. Dubé writes in the report.

“The stories in this report serve as reminders of the profound human impact our work can have,” he says, noting that he hopes to make similar strides with his new oversight of French language services and child protection, which were transferred to his office as of May 1.

Describing the past year as a “defining moment” for his office, the Ombudsman says: “Political change and the administrative changes that go with it tend to make offices like ours busier, as the public and government officials alike seek answers about everything from good governance practices to the execution of political decisions.”

The Ombudsman’s role, he stresses, “is not to police politicians, or to intervene in or overturn political decisions,” but to assist in “ensuring that the execution of those decisions, through the delivery of government services, is fair.”

The report cites numerous examples of how the Ombudsman and staff helped complainants and bureaucrats alike with the impact of such decisions on public services, such as:

  • The federal legalization of cannabis and the opening of the online-only Ontario Cannabis Store (OCS) prompted more than 2,400 complaints to the Ombudsman as the OCS struggled with delays, delivery problems and customer service issues. A dedicated team of Ombudsman staff worked with OCS to flag issues and resolve complaints quickly.
  • The cancellation of the Electric and Hydrogen Vehicle Incentive program as a result of the government ending cap-and-trade led to more than 300 complaints. Ombudsman staff helped owners navigate the system for obtaining program rebates.

The top category of complaints to the Ombudsman continues to be “law and order,” particularly issues related to correctional facilities (5,711 complaints, up 14% from last year).

“I and several staff members visited correctional facilities across the province, where we sometimes observed unacceptable housing conditions,” Mr. Dubé says. “Our staff also assisted many transgender and Indigenous inmates in ensuring their specific rights were accommodated.”

The Ombudsman’s office continues to work with the government to ensure it implements promised reforms to the segregation (solitary confinement) of inmates and police training in de-escalation techniques – issues that affect vulnerable people, including those with mental illness. 

Complaints about municipalities – which were added to the Ombudsman’s jurisdiction in 2015-2016, along with school boards and universities – increased 20%, to 3,002. As in previous years, almost all were resolved without formal investigation (the sole new investigation launched, into the controversial hiring of Niagara Region’s chief administrative officer, is ongoing) – but the report cites several cases that resulted in improvements to local administration. 

For the first time, the top category of municipal complaints was not local councils themselves – a change Mr. Dube’s report welcomes as the result of now-mandatory integrity commissioners at the local level: “Local issues are best handled at the local level,” it says.

“Our Office does not replace these officers; our role is to ensure they are working as they should, and to intervene as warranted in areas where they cannot reach.” The top municipal topic was by-law enforcement.

The Ombudsman also released an update on his office’s work in the two new areas that were transferred to his jurisdiction as of May 1, when new legislation eliminating the formerly independent offices of the French Language Service Commissioner and the Provincial Child Advocate for Children and Youth took effect. 

Largely staffed by existing employees of those offices, the Ombudsman’s new French Language Service and Children and Youth units have dealt with hundreds of complaints since May 1, and are pursuing ongoing investigations as well as emerging issues, Mr. Dubé says.

Acknowledging the “tremendous work” done by his predecessors in these areas, the Ombudsman adds: “We are committed to building on their success” in building relationships with the francophone community and with children and youth in care.

To review this news release on the Ontario Ombudsman’s website, click on – https://www.ombudsman.on.ca/resources/news/press-releases/2019/2018-2019-annual-report-ombudsman-records-one-of-busiest-years%E2%80%9D-in-office%E2%80%99s-history .

Additional Links on the Report –

PDF version of the Ombudsman’s 2018-2019 Annual Report

Accessible PDF of the 2018-2019 Annual Reports Facts & Highlights

Accessible PDF of the Ombudsman’s remarks on the 2018-2019 Annual Report

NIAGARA AT LARGE Encourages You To Join The Conversation By Sharing Your Views On This Post In The Space Following The Bernie Sanders Quote Below.

 A Reminder That We Only Post Comments By Individuals Who Also Share Their First And Last Names.

For More News And Commentary From Niagara At Large – An Independent, Alternative Voice For Our Greater Bi-National Niagara Region – Become A Regular Visitor And Subscriber To NAL at Www.Niagaraatlarge.Com .

“A Politician Thinks Of The Next Election. A Leader Thinks Of The Next Generation.” – Bernie Sanders

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.