“Mr. D’Angelo (the now former Niagara Regional CAO) was provided (prior to his hiring to theCAO’s job) with substantive content to be used in his application materials by insiders who had access to information not available to the general public or to other candidates. The lack of fairness and transparency in the hiring process created controversy and distrust within the region and served to undermine public confidence in local government.” – from the Ontario Ombudsman report “Inside Job,” released November 29th, 2019
By Doug Draper
Posted November 29th, 2019 on Niagara At Large
That is the name Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dube gave to his 71-page report, released by his office this November 19th, on the conduct of former Niagara Regional chair Al Caslin and other former politicos and administrators around the hiring three years ago of the Region’s ex-CAO Carmen D’Angelo.
It was a hiring of an individual for a job … through a process that was “compromised” in ways that “created controversy and distrust within the region and served to undermine public confidence in local government,” stated the Ombudsman following an investigation by his office that took more than a year.
“I find that Niagara Region’s failure to preserve the integrity and fairness of the hiring process was unreasonable, unjust and wrong,” concluded Dube in the report.
“The inside job described in this report was carried out by a few individuals, and their actions should not be taken to impugn the conduct of other Niagara Region employees,” the report adds. “Most regional staff we spoke with told us that they either did not know about the problems with the CAO hiring process, or heard only rumours.”
“Overwhelmingly, they (regional staff) were distraught about what transpired in this case.”
When contacted by Niagara At Large in the hours after the Ombudsman report’s release, Niagara’s current Regional Chair Jim Bradley said he and members of the council need to review the report carefully with lawyers before he comments on its findings and recommendations.
Bradley said a Thursday, December 5th date has already been set for a special meeting of regional council to discuss the findings and recommendations with lawyers, and decide what steps should be taken next.
Dube’s report lists a total of 16 recommendations aimed at ensuring the process for hiring staff at the region is carried out fairly and responsibly, including the appointing of a “Municipal Ombudsman” and “external governance experts to review Niagara Region’s practices” around hiring staff and related matters.
The Ombudsman also recommended that Niagara’s regional government “report publicly, and to my Office, in six months’ time on its progress in implementing the recommendations, and at six-month intervals thereafter until such time as I am satisfied that adequate steps have been taken to address them.”
Carmen D’Angelo, who was also a former CAO at the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA), was hired with the support of a majority then serving on the Region’s council at a shot-gun meeting of the council, convened in October 2016 by then regional chair Al Caslin.
Information reached the media later that prior to his hiring, D’Angelo had wrongly been given access by administrators close to Caslin to information about who else was applying for the CAO job and what questions he might be asked during a job interview.
While D’Angelo was in the CAO job and news reports about those wrongful acts were surfacing in the media, more reports surfaced that Caslin had renewed D’Angelo’s employment contract for another three years without the council’s knowledge. Among other things, he contract required regional taxpayers to continue paying D’Angelo’s six-figure salary even if, for some reason, he was fired before the three-year-extension period was over.
A media release accompanying the November 29th release of Dube’s report, outlines a few more of the measures he is recommending the Region to take as follows;
- An employee code of conduct or ethics that provides for the protection of confidential information
- Training for staff on the use of personal email and retention of corporate records
- A bylaw setting the parameters of the relationship between council and the CAO
- A policy setting out the process for hiring a CAO
- Clear terms of reference for municipal ombudsman investigations
“I am hopeful that by implementing my recommendations, the regional municipality will regain some of the public trust that was lost during this CAO hiring process, and that in future its practices and policies will result in greater accountability, transparency, integrity and fairness in local governance,” stated Mr. Dubé in the final pages of his the report.
Although a number of residents across Niagara who have been following this whole episode over the past three or four years have wondered out loud if police might ever be called in to investigate what unfolded here further, there appears to be nothing in the report that hints at anything like a police investigation in the works.
It is now up to the Region’s current council to discuss, when it holds its special meeting of Dube’s report this coming Thursday, December 5th, starting at 3 p.m.to decide what steps it will be taking next about the findings and about outstanding legal challenges involving this affair.
Those challenges include what to do about a multi-million-dollar lawsuit D’Angelo filed against the Region after he left his job early this year.
The Ombudsman’s Office received complaints before and during the time of its investigation about the whole hiring affair from a total of 171 individuals and groups, including members of the public across Niagara. The Office also reviewed thousands of pieces of information, including electronic documents, during the investigation, launched in August 2018..
A BRIEF FOOTNOTE – The Ombudsman’s report on this affair is very detailed and takes time to digest. Niagara At Large will have more to report on it and commentary on its findings in the days ahead.
Please Stay Tuned for More
If you would like to read the entire text of the report, Inside Job, click on the following link – https://www.ombudsman.on.ca/resources/reports-and-case-summaries/reports-on-investigations/2019/inside-job
To read the Media Release that the Ombudsman’s Office circulated on the report, click on – https://www.ombudsman.on.ca/resources/news/press-releases/2019/ombudsman-finds-niagara-cao-hiring-was-inside-job
For a recent commentary Niagara At Large posted on this issue, click on – https://niagaraatlarge.com/2019/11/02/niagara-residents-deserve-real-justice-out-of-dangelo-caslin-administration-hiring-controversy/.
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