Who was the regional “councillor” in the Ontario Ombudsman’s Report who functioned like a go-between in getting Carmen D’Angelo the chief administrative job at Niagara Region?
“This (regional) councillor told us (Ombudsman Office investigators) that he does not recall speaking with the employee (Niagara’s regional government) about Mr. D’Angelo as the CAO candidate. However, we obtained an email from the councillor to the employee dated April 15, 2016, in which the councillor thanks the employee for the meeting, and suggests that the employee mention Mr. D’Angelo’s name to other staff as a good candidate for CAO.” – an excerpt from Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dube’s “Inside Job” report, made public November 29th, 2019, on the circumstances around of now former Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Carmen D’Angelo
A Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper
Posted December 2nd, 2019 on Niagara At Large
Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dube’s long-awaited report on the hiring process that saw former NPCA CAO Carmen D’Angelo get the CAO job at Niagara Region – a process that Dube ultimately called “compromised,” “unjust,” and “wrong” – was finally released this November 29th with at least one glaring set of information left out.
The report, as powerful as it was in confirming the scandalous conduct many Region watchers were trying to wave red flags about all along, failed to name who the individuals in the shadows were who aided and abetted the Region’s now former CAO, Carmen D’Angelo, in his quest for the $230,000-plus a year top job.
There are certainly numerous references to “the Chair” (although most Niagara residents who have paid attention know who that is or was – Al Caslin), to “the Chair’s Policy Director,” to “the Chair’s Director of Communications,” to “the Clerk,” to “the Director of People Services and Organizational Development,” and on and on.
And then there was that ever-so-friendly-to-D’Angelo’s-quest-for-the-job, go-between “councillor.”
Who exactly are these people and why won’t the Ontario Ombudsman’s Office let the people of Niagara – the people who pay these people good money to serve the people – know who exactly these people are?
“My Office’s general practice,” says Dube in the first pages of his “Inside Job” report, “is not to name individuals in the report whether they are complainants whose confidentially must be protected (in which case their identity is anonymized), or the public servants and other officials whose actions are the subjects of our investigations. This is because our focus is on administrative conduct, and our intent is never to ‘name, blame and shame’ specific individuals.”
Let me be clear. I am not for a moment suggesting that the Ombudsman’s Office should out or identify the names of complainants (sometimes known as whistle-blowers) or name any of the many people working at the Region or elsewhere who were approached by the Office to assist in its investigation. We can almost certainly concluded that those people had nothing to do with contributing to or participating in the “inside job” that the Ombudsman found so “unjust” and “wrong” here.
I am talking about the key players or perpetrators, if you will, and anyone else on Caslin’s regional council and on regional staff who enabled what the Ombudsman calls this “compromised,” “unjust” and “wrong” inside job of a hiring to take place and to remain hidden from the public for as long as possible by supporting it, by verbally attacking or smearing anyone who asked questions about it and who worked in concert to block information from coming out about it.
It is interesting, to say the least, that the Ombudsman talks so often about the lack of openness and transparency, or the lack of it, on the part of the Region when it comes to its hiring process, yet won’t exercise openness and transparency himself when it comes to naming those who had a hand in compromising it at such great cost to Niagara’s residents and taxpayers.
And how unfair is it to others working at the Region or sitting, then or now, on the regional council, who have done nothing wrong, yet have residents across the Niagara understandably trying to guess who the key players were in this nefarious hiring affair, and who might be wondering if it is any of them?
It was nice of the Ombudsman to stress at one point in his report that the vast majority of individuals serving at the Region had nothing untoward to do with this affair and were co-operative, if and when they were approached by his investigators for assistance.
But how does that help them if and when members of the public and the media, for that matter, may be wondering if one of the key players involved in the “unjust” activities described in the Ombudsman’s report is them?
Let’s just take that D’Angelo-friendly, go-between councillor referred to at least a few times on pages 13 and 14 (in paragraphs 52 and 53) of the Inside Job report.
Is that a former regional councillor or one who may still be sitting on the regional council now? And even if it is a former regional councillor, could it be one who has since received an appointed from the province or some other level of government to sit on another board, commission, tribunal or other public body paid for with our tax money?
And again, what about all of the other former and current members of regional council who had little or nothing to do with the unjust hiring affair? It may not be the “general practice” of the Ombudsman’s Office to name names, but why wouldn’t you do it, at least as an act of fairness, to remove those councillors who did nothing wrong out from under the spotlight of suspicion and speculation?
And shouldn’t the voters of this region have a right to know if the councillors representing them have done anything secretive or that that may be a violation of public trust?
Along with this reporter and resident of Niagara, I am sure that most residents of Niagara are pleased that Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dube agreed to bring a team of investigators in to get to the bottom of what was arguably the most disturbing and costly (both in terms of tax dollars wasted, the exodus of valuable municipal administrators and lost public trust) chapters in the five-decade-long history of our regional government.
But in all due respect Mr. Dube, this is not General Motors or Exxon where, if they compromise or corrupt their hiring process for whatever reason, they can turn around and tell those of us who don’t work their or own any of their stock that it is none of our business. They are private corporations, with the emphasis on private, and they are doing it on their dime.
The Region is a public body operating with more than a billion dollars a year of our tax money, and if, through some “inside job,” the process we trust will be used to hire the best and brightest people to serve us is compromised or corrupted in some way, the taxpaying citizens of Niagara have a perfect right to know who the key players were in this inside job.
What we, the people of this Niagara region, need to know now is this.
Our opportunity to publicly identify who that “councillor” and the other key players in this CAO hiring fiasco is not over yet.
Niagara’s current regional council will be meeting this coming Thursday, December 5th to discuss the findings and recommendations in the Ombudsman’s report and to discuss what should be done next.
One of the things residents across Niagara should do before this December 5th meeting, aside from calling for legal action to be taken by the Region against any alleged perpetrators of this “unjust” affair, is insisting to our directly elected regional councillors and our mayors sitting on the regional council, that they do right by the constituents they have sworn an oath to serve, and agree to make public the names of that councillor and the other key players that have put us through this costly nightmare.
Please contact your members of regional council and mayor as soon as possible to make sure that happens.
Niagara At Large will have more news and commentary on the Ombudsman’s report and “inside job” discussed therein in the hours and days ahead.
For contact information youneed to send a message to your member or members of Niagara regional council, click on – https://www.niagararegion.ca/government/council/profiles/default.aspx .
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 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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