Region CAO hiring tainted before it started
D’Angelo downloaded confidential reports on interim CAO, hiring committee in April 2016
The 2016 chief administrative officer hiring process at Niagara Region was tainted before it began, The Standard has learned.
A review of digital documents obtained by the newspaper related to the hiring process has found current regional CAO Carmen D’Angelo downloaded drafts of reports related to the job, including a confidential motion, six months before he was hired and more than a week before they were presented at regional council.
On April 19, 2016, 11 days after then-regional CAO Harry Schlange announced he was leaving Niagara, D’Angelo downloaded a working draft of a confidential regional chair’s report that would eventually result in Mo Lewis being appointed the acting CAO.
The report is unfinished and would not be presented to council until April 28, 2016. The draft has highlighted paragraphs in need of review and there are several placeholders in the documents for a formal file number, information about staff who reviewed it and the signature of Regional Chair Alan Caslin.
“For the sake of leadership and
business continuity, it is prudent to appoint an interim CAO for the duration of the recruitment for a permanent CAO,” says the report titled CHR XX — 2016 Interim CAO Authorization and Bylaw. “An internal candidate has been identified and is agreeable to this recommendation being brought forward to regional council for consideration.”
Reports that involve “identifiable individuals” and employment issues are supposed to be confidential and are only shared with a handful of offices within the Region while they are being drafted. They are not to be sent to unauthorized staff or anyone outside the Region.
At the time he downloaded the document, D’Angelo was CAO of Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority.
The other draft D’Angelo downloaded, titled CHR XX — 2016 CAO Recruitment Process, was the report that would create the CAO selection committee that would vote to hire him six months later. It has similar placeholders as those in the interim CAO report.
The CHR designation on both documents indicates they are reports from the regional chair.
Metadata in the documents and other digital information obtained by The Standard do not indicate who sent them to D’Angelo, but does confirm he downloaded them on April 19, 2016, more than a week before they would be debated by regional councillors.
The data also identified the documents’ author as former regional human resources director Fiona Peaceful.
In an interview Wednesday, Peaceful confirmed she worked on the reports in conjunction with the legal, regional clerk and regional chair’s offices. Peaceful, who now works for the City of Brampton, said she did not share the documents with anyone outside of the Region.
Regional sources say reports are written and shared among departments using software called eSCRIBE. When reports of a confidential nature are being drafted, only approved officials have access to them and councillors are usually prevented from seeing them.
In the case of the acting CAO report, only the human resources, legal department, regional clerk and Caslin’s office had access. A report in eSCRIBE can be downloaded as a Microsoft Word document only by someone with access.
Sources at the Region say sometimes reports are drafted in Word and shared with relevant departments via email and then uploaded to eSCRIBE when they are finished.
D’Angelo did not respond to interview requests for this story.
In response to questions from The Standard, Caslin wrote in an email that he did not direct his staff to send the drafts to D’Angelo and “they verified that the alleged documents were not sent to Carmen D’Angelo.”
Caslin, who was also the chair of the CAO hiring committee, did not respond to followup questions nor consent to an interview.
The downloading of the draft reports brings the total number of documents D’Angelo had related to the CAO position prior to being hired in October 2016 to six.
Two previous Standard exposés, published in April and July of this year, found D’Angelo downloaded four documents written by Caslin’s personal staff during the hiring process.
Three of those documents — two confidential memos about other CAO candidates and the interview questions — were written by Caslin’s policy director Robert D’Amboise.
The fourth document was written by Caslin’s then-communications director Jason Tamming, and contained answers to a written submission D’Angelo would later present to the hiring committee.
Tamming has since been promoted to regional communications director and answers to D’Angelo.
D’Amboise and Tamming have not responded to multiple interview requests to discuss the documents which the Standard has verified were written and downloaded by D’Angelo before his final interview for the CAO position on Oct. 12, 2016.
He was hired by a vote of regional council on the recommendation of the committee on Oct. 31, 2016.
Since the publication of The Standard exposés, regional council launched two investigations.
Following the first exposé in April, council hired Toronto lawyer Marvin Huberman to investigate the hiring process. Huberman cleared the process of wrongdoing, but his report drew criticism from councillors because it did not find any digital evidence and accepted “improbable” statements by D’Angelo as credible.
After the second story was published in July, regional council directed staff to search government servers for the documents and ask the NPCA to search their own databases.
That search, conducted by regional staff and supervised by Western Ontario University political science professor Andrew Sancton found one of the documents — the interview questions memo written by D’Amboise — still existed on the servers.
NPCA has yet to search its servers.
During a special council meeting last week councillors unanimously voted to ask the Ontario Ombudsman to investigate the CAO hiring process.
In his Wednesday email, Caslin said he will “co-operate fully with that independent third party process, should the Ombudsman decide to investigate.”
The Ombudsman, which previously investigated the Region’s illegal seizure of a Standard reporter’s computer and notes in December 2017, hasn’t said if it will investigate the matter.
A spokesperson for the Ombudsman said that an announcement will be made in “the coming days.”
See related documents on our website
Carmen D'Angelo, now CAO of the Niagara Region, downloaded two draft regional reports about the CAO position six months before he was hired.