Regional Councillor Peter Nicholson’s Bewildering Bid to have Region Reconsider Suing Caslin and Company is Swiftly Shot Down
A News Commentary by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper
Posted February 21st, 2020 on Niagara At Large
Despite a last-minute bid by a Niagara Falls Regional Councillor Peter Nicholson to throw a wrench into the works, Niagara Region’s council voted 24 to 1 to pursue lawsuits against former Niagara Regional chair Al Caslin, the Region’s former CAO Carmen D’Angelo and two other key players in what has come to be known as the ‘CAO hiring scandal.
The almost unanimous vote – recorded during the end of this past Thursday, February 20th’ regional council meeting – brought a quick end to Nicholson’s out-of-the-blue motion to reconsider filing lawsuits against the four, which also include former regional policy director Robert D’Amboise and former communications director Jason Tamming.
This is good news for countless residents across Niagara who have been following the unfolding details of this sordid affair, going back to the events leading up to Caslin and he regional council of the day hiring Carmen D’Angelo to the $250,000-plus job of chief administrative officer (CAO) of what is a more than a billion-dollars-a-year public corporation.
What is also good news is that this past Wednesday, February 19th, possibly unbeknownst to most, if not all on the Region’s council, lawyers for the Region had already filed a statement of claim in the Ontario courts against Caslin, D’Amboise and Tamming, suing the trio for a total of $850,000.
The claim breaks down to $500,000 against Caslin, $250,000 against D’Amboise and $100,000 against Tamming.
Such a claim has apparently not yet been made against D’Angelo, who left the region in early 2019, claiming constructive dismissal and pursuing a $1.15-million lawsuit of his own against a Region he received more than $750,000 in salaries and benefits from after he was hired through a process that was alleged by many to be “tainted” and characterized in a report following an extensive investigation by Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dube as an “inside job” that was “unreasonable, unjust and “wrong.”
According to a story in the February 21st edition of The St. Catharines Standard, the statement of claim filed against Caslin, D’Amboise and D’Angelo charge that the three were “engaged in an unlawful conspiracy.”
The statement also charges that Caslin “committed misfeasance in a public office and/or abuse of public office in his position as regional chair,” and that he “acted in concert” with D’Amboise and Tamming to see that D’Angelo “should be hired as the Region’s new CAO and to prove Mr. D’Angelo with certain beneficial terms of employment without the knowledge or approval of council.”
As for this reporter, who was a witness to what many Niagara citizens took to calling ‘the Caslin shit show’ that had its at the Region, right up to the time of Caslin’s defeat in the October 2018 municipal elections, I will leave you here with just a couple of points.
While Ontario Provincial Police take their own look at this terrible affair, it is good to see our new Regional Council, under the Chairmanship of Jim Bradley who, by the way, has been a model for decency and a breath of fresh air compared to what we had before, pursue lawsuits against the key players.
After all, this awful mess has cost and continues to cost the taxpayers of Niagara countless millions of dollars, not to mention the dedicated staff people who were serving us so well, and who were either pushed out or left because they couldn’t stand it anymore during the Caslin era. So our region needs to take firm action that sends out a message that we will never tolerate something like this happening again.
I only wish the Region had sued for more money given all the costs in time and money this mess caused, and given the hell that so many good people were put through.
Indeed, the statement of claim filed against Caslin and the other two clearly points out that “the Region has suffered significant reputational harm and monetary damages as a result of the defendant’s concerted efforts.”
For that reason, I am sure I am not the only one who might conclude that the $850,000 in claims that the Region is seeking so far, hardly begins to match what it has cost a municipal government body with an annual billion-dollar-plus budget, with services that are vital to the health and prosperity of our communities, and with however long the outfall from this mess, including however long it will take to repair the Region’s reputation for the public and prospective employees, will go on costing all of us who live and work in Niagara.
As far as Niagara Falls Regional Councillor Peter Nicholson is concerned, he was given an opportunity at the February 20th council meeting, just before his motion to reconsider the lawsuits was put to a vote, to explain why he was tabling motion, and that opportunity came and went with the following word –
“You may still, if you feel comfortable to do so, make a statement in open council as to your reasons,” the Region’s Chair, Jim Bradley, said to him.
“I would like to go right to the motion,” Nicholson said. “I feel if I give those reasons in public, it would be prejudicial to the corporation. So I prefer to go to the vote.”
So the rest of us, including those who placed enough confidence in Nicholson to elected him October 2018 to a seat on the Region’s council, are left wondering what possible reasons he could have for wanting to reconsider an action that seems like a no-brainer and looks like something called JUSTICE to many of us out here.
It was telling that even a majority on the Region’s council voted against an earlier motion to go behind closed doors to hear his reasons so they obviously didn’t feel they would contribute anything of real importance to the matter at hand.
Then, when his motion to reconsider the lawsuits was finally put on the floor for a vote, he was the only one of the 26 regional councillors who pushed a button ‘yes’ or ‘no’ who voted ‘yes’ to it.
Way to go Councillor Nicholson, and thanks for not seeming to care enough to say more than you did when you had an opportunity to explain to the public what in hell you were doing and why.
The legendary country music singer Dolly Parton once said; “I just don’t feel like I have to explain myself.”
That is Dolly’s prerogative. No one elected her to anything. She’s a private citizen and if I don’t like her answer, I suppose I can always stop buying her records.
But when you are elected to a public office and you are making important decisions on peoples’ behalf, explanations are in order.
Just a thought Councillor Nicholson, and with that, I leave you to your constituents. Good luck with that.
To read another recent Niagara At Large post on all of this, click on – https://niagaraatlarge.com/2020/02/19/tell-our-niagara-regional-councillors-to-hang-tough-on-suing-key-figures-in-cao-hiring-scandal/
To read the Ontario Ombudsman’s November 2019 report, titled “Inside Job,” on the CAO hiring scandal, click on – https://www.ombudsman.on.ca/resources/reports-and-case-summaries/reports-on-investigations/2019/inside-job
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