Ombudsman announces investigation into hiring of Niagara Region CAO
Results of the investigation won't be provided until after the municipal election
Ontario's ombudsman has launched a formal investigation into the hiring and contract for Niagara Region CAO Carmen D'Angelo.
Paul Dubé announced the investigation by his office Thursday, saying it comes after 113 complaints about the hiring and the way the region responded to concerns that were raised.
"Given the high volume of public complaints, the request from regional council, the concerns raised publicly by two local MPPs and others, the evident seriousness of the issue and the fact that local efforts to resolve the matter have been exhausted, I have determined that a formal investigation by my office is in the public interest," he stated in a media release.
An open letter to the ombudsman sent by Niagara Centre MPP Jeff Burch on Aug. 24 raised questions about D'Angelo's hiring. In a phone interview, Burch explained local reporters revealed the CAO was "set up to get the job" by being provided with information about other candidates vying for the job and about questions that would be asked in the interview process.
This is great news. In order to restore the public’s faith and confidence, it’s essential an investigation of the CAO hiring process be conducted by the Ontario Ombudsman’s office. Read my full statement on Facebook <a href="https://t.co/BW43ROuXYl">https://t.co/BW43ROuXYl</a> <a href="https://t.co/gE8LM4d4x1">https://t.co/gE8LM4d4x1</a>—@JeffBurch_
The MPP describes D'Angelo as one of the "chief architects" in a decision to seize a local newspaper reporter's laptop and remove him from a meeting and says Niagara's Regional Chair admitted to "unilaterally extending" the CAO's contract for another year without giving council a chance to weigh in.
"Confidence must be restored in Niagara Regional Council and this investigation will play a key role in restoring the faith people once had in our local government," Burch writes.
Region says it will cooperate
The investigation will cover the process the region followed to hire its CAO, the official response to concerns raised about the hiring and the D'Angelo's contract, including any extensions and amendments.
A statement released by the region says staff intend to work with the ombudsman.
"Niagara Region will fully cooperate with the investigation announced today by the Ontario Ombudsman," it says. "The corporation will have no further comment while the investigation is underway."
Results to come after election
Dubé said the investigation will take time and the results won't be released until after the municipal election in October.
"As an impartial, independent office of the legislature, we take care to remain outside of the political fray," he wrote. "Our focus, as always, will be on conducting a thorough, evidence-based investigation, and making constructive, feasible recommendations."