Ontario ombudsman: Niagara CAO hiring an “inside job”

By Mike Williscraft

Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dubé called on Niagara Region last Friday to improve its practices after his investigation found its hiring of former chief administrative officer Carmen D’Angelo was “compromised” by confidential information leaked by insiders in the former regional chair’s office.

“The Regional Municipality of Niagara’s 2016 CAO hiring process was an inside job, tainted by the improper disclosure of confidential information to a candidate – a candidate who was ultimately successful and became the region’s most senior administrator,” Mr. Dubé writes in his report, entitled Inside Job.

D’Angelo was provided with confidential documents before and throughout the hiring process, the Ombudsman found. These included a report on the makeup of the recruitment committee, the names and biographies of potential candidates, and questions and suggested answers for his interviews. Several of the documents originated in the office of the then-regional chair, whose staff also helped D’Angelo with his application and played a central role in the hiring process, despite not being part of the official recruitment committee.

Ombudsman Dubé found that Niagara Region’s failure to set clear terms of reference for the municipal ombudsman or to ask the auditors if they had the necessary expertise was unreasonable. His report identifies best practices for such investigations.

The Ombudsman’s recommendations include several measures to ensure the municipality preserves the integrity of such processes in future, including that it have:

• 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

Niagara Region has agreed to report publicly to the Ombudsman’s office every six months on its progress.

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