With the Ombudsman Report Now Out, Will Our Niagara Regional Council Stand Up for Democracy and the Rule of Law When it Meets this December 5th?

“Niagara’s Regional Council now has the power to make the Ontario Ombudsman report meaningless and a waste of time. All of us in the Niagara Region need to pay very special attention to that meeting and make sure the council doesn’t!”

A Commentary by Ed Smith

A Special to Niagara At Large, Posted December 3rd, 2019

Niagara community activist and longtime municipal council watcher Ed Smith calls on Niagara’s Regional Council to stand up for democracy and the rule of law following release of Ontario Ombudsman’s ‘Inside Job’ report

The Ontario Ombudsman’s report ‘Inside Job’, on the corrupt hiring of Carmen D’Angelo at Niagara Region, has finally been released.

But what does it really mean?

The report outlines details and events in a fascinating degree of detail, but I can tell you that many people in Niagara already knew most of these details. 

To be sure, there were some new details in the report, but the gist of the entire sordid affair was well known and understood by countless citizens who pay attention to local politics in Niagara. 

So what does the Ombudsman report really mean?

The corruption of the last version of council exposed the Niagara Region to –

  • National ridicule on more than a single occasion, created a culture of fear in government workplaces throughout Niagara,
  • Resulted in dozens of well qualified and ethical employees’ lives being torn asunder (along with their families),
  • Resulted in immeasurable losses to our natural environment and,
  • Totally corrupted our democratic processes and institutions.

The corrupted hiring of Carmen D’Angelo was not the work of a solo bad actor.

Now former Niagara regional chair Al Caslin (left) and the Region’s former CAO Carmen D’Angelo, at a regional council meeting a few years ago. file photo by Doug Draper

The internet defines a conspiracy as “a secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful”, and it defines collusion as “secret or illegal cooperation or conspiracy, especially in order to cheat or deceive others.”

Both definitions easily fit into what transpired within the realm of our highest local government institution (Niagara’s regional government), and it does not take much effort to apply those definitions to other government institutions in Niagara who were under the same influences at the time.

Ironically, some of the councillors who might have been involved in the conspiracy and collusion are still on council today, and they will be part of the debate to determine what happens next.

At the council meeting of April 12 2018 Jim Diodati (Mayor of Niagara Falls and regional councillor) argued against asking Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dube’s office to investigate anything.

Diodati strongly preferred the appointment of a lawyer to investigate

In arguing against an Ontario Ombudsman probe, Diodatti said in part –

Niagara Falls Mayor and Niagara regional councillor Jim Diodati expressed a lack of faith in what an Ontario Ombudsman investigation might lead tol

“I don’t have a lot of faith in that approach, Mr. Chair (Niagara’s regional chair at the time was Al Caslin) because it’s been three months now and we still don’t know where we are, and having been through Ombudsman’s investigations I know they don’t carry authority, they just make recommendations and they give you their opinion and that’s it, it’s all over, there’s not a slap on the wrist, there’s nothing…”

Diodati won his argument that day and the Ontario Ombudsman was not asked to investigate and the Region appointed a lawyer of their own choosing to do the investigation, and that report found zero wrongdoing in the hiring of Carmen D’Angelo. 

Not only did that investigator find nothing wrong, but based on his report, council voted to apologize to Carmen D’Angelo.

It seems just as laughable now as it seemed then. Thankfully, Diodati lost in the long run, and in August 2018 the Region asked Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dube to investigate.

So what does the Ontario Ombudsman’s  report, titled “Inside Job” and released this November 29th,  really mean then?

Do we, as Canadians, value our democracy? 

Do we value the rule of law?

Do we value good governance and elected officials acting in good faith?

I feel certain there is going to be a voice on council that will say; “We need to move forward. What’s done is done. We need to move forward and not look back.”

Unfortunately I have heard that sentiment reflected by elected officials too many times in this region and I think it is suspiciously misguided.  

Accountability is a major component of public trust.

Any possible criminal behaviour must be seen  not to be tolerated and must be investigated to the fullest extent. 

If council chooses not to pursue any legal actions against the players involved,  they are in effect allowing them to get away with it.

They are reinforcing the notion that in government, any degree of corruption is not really punishable.

Niagara citizens protesting outside the regional government headquarters before another meeting over the last two years about questions around the hiring of the Region’s now former CAO Carmen D’Angelo. File photo by Doug Draper

 It is very plain to many, if not all of us in Niagara that the corruption was deep and rampant, and that it was not confined to a single institution. Ater all,  Carmen D’Angelo did come from the NPCA where he was hired as CAO there under a cloud questions and controversy as well. 

Dozens of people who were not elected officials chose to put themselves on the line in order to get us to the point we are at today, including heroic whistleblowers who risked everything to get this story to the public.

They could not sit idly by and watch the rot continue. Niagara owes a debt of gratitude to these people, and to the media, without whom none of this would have been exposed.

On April 08 2019,  it was reported that council had decided not to pursue legal action against Al Caslin because he had been humiliated by his electoral defeat, and of course they did not hold that discussion in public.  

If any regional councillor does not understand that one of their primary duties as an elected official is to uphold and promote good democracy and its institutions let them at least have the courage to say it in open session. 

So what does the Ontario Ombudsman’s report really mean?  Was Jim Diodati right when he argued it was a waste of time? 

It may have been a waste of time to Jim Diodatti. (His administration has been the object of two negative reports from the Ombudsman). But is it a waste of time in the Regional Municipality of Niagara?

Only Regional Council can decide that, and they will at the special meeting they have called for this coming Thursday, December 5th, starting at 3 p.m.

A year ago this December 6th, Niagara Region’s new council was sworn in with many citizens across the region hoping for a new era of fairness, justice, and open democracy for all. Will the regional council stand up for those values in the wake of the Ontario Ombudsman’s damming report on the misdeed of those involved in the D’Angelo hiring affair? File photo by Doug Draper

Niagara’s Regional Council now has the power to make the Ontario Ombudsman report meaningless and a waste of time.

All of us in the Niagara Region need to pay very special attention to that meeting and make sure the council doesn’t!

Ed Smith is a resident of St. Catharines, a retired officer in the Canadian Armed Forces, and a community activist who also serves as a director of A Better Niagara, a region-wide citizen watchdog group.

To view a clip of Niagara Falls Mayor and Regional Councillor Jim Diodati, at an April 2018 Regional Council Meeting led by then Chair Al Caslin,  expressing his ‘lack of faith’ in an Ontario Ombudsman investigation, click on the following link –https://www.youtube.com/embed/W3NEX3E3D20?start=4245&end=4353

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 with their comment. 

For More News And Commentary  on Niagara At Large – An independent, alternative voice for our greater bi-national Niagara Region – become a regular visitor and subscriber to NAL at http://www.niagaraatlarge.com .

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

4 responses to “With the Ombudsman Report Now Out, Will Our Niagara Regional Council Stand Up for Democracy and the Rule of Law When it Meets this December 5th?

  1. Thank you to Ed Smith for this reminder of the path to despair and bewilderment taken during the last term of Regional Council. The Ombudsman’s report has recommendations that I ask councillors to turn into firm charges against the wrongdoers.
    Don Alexander (I served on Regional Council for two terms in the 1970s and was embarrassed that the proud institution was driven to a state of total public disrespect.)

    Like

  2. Let us see how strong the corrupt still hold sway in the Regional Council. Above all, if a majority of honest citizens does not hold sway in the Council’s decision, what is open to the citizens, apart from waiting until the next elections?

    Like

  3. I agree with Mr Alexander. Charges are in order. So “poor” Mr Caslin was humiliated by his electoral loss. Boo hoo. At the very least, how about being fined the amount of his past council salary which was not earned because he misused his power while in office? If the average person committed wrongdoing they would have been fired and if they prospered by the misuse of their position, they would certainly be punished. How much damage did these people do to the region through their blatant corruption?

    There must be regulations enacted by which those who are found to be corrupt, and those who enable them, are held to account. Meanwhile, where is the appropriate compensation for those who were honest and qualified but lost their positions and good reputations?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Steven Hartwell

    This D’Angelo corruption debacle does not boil down to just one person responsible, nor two, nor twenty.
    This case is but one of an infinite number of corruptions we see unfold every day all across Canada, that exposes the fact that corruption is systemic through-out Canada’s alleged democratic system at every and all levels.
    The monumental efforts by Ed Smith and many others plus 10s of 1,000s of voters to try to bring to account just one person for corruption, who was / is not a one-off person acting alone, who even now is still claiming innocence and trying to accuse his accusers of conducting an undeserved vendetta against him, who very probably yet may never be brought to account for his wrong-doings, reveals that our entire system favours D’Angelo and his corrupting kind instead of the voters and honest transparent governance.
    Our governance system’s weakness is it’s wide-open vulnerability to being easily occupied, owned, controlled, and run by corruption, by corporations’ and criminal organizations’ corrupters. When it comes to governance, it should not, must not, have to be the responsibility of the people, the voters, to have to conduct monumental efforts attempting to root out, to prove, to eliminate the corrupters and systemic corruption, which as we should learn from this case is near impossible to achieve because the corrupted system itself prevents us from succeeding.
    Governance does not begin and end with those elected to do so.
    It also includes the un-elected too, where-in the way bigger problem exists. We have to stop allowing ourselves to be manipulated and fooled into simply holding our noses when we vote, stop believing campaign claims of honesty, transparency, integrity, hoping that once every four years or so we will get another chance to elect good people to our governance system, who in turn will hire good administrative people, such that our governance system will finally be free of corruption, free of secrets, un-recorded meetings, and oxymoronic “in-camera” closed doors behind which the corrupters and the corrupted hide their corruptions.
    Our governance system should be, must be, established in ways that those who will govern us as our elected governance representatives, and those who administer that governance, have to prove to us that they and our governance system can be trusted, honest and transparent, before we allow them to do the jobs.
    Finding out afterwards once every four years that our governance system is still corrupt, is always too late.

    Like

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.