Re­gion CAO hir­ing tainted be­fore it started

D’An­gelo down­loaded con­fi­den­tial re­ports on in­terim CAO, hir­ing com­mit­tee in April 2016

The Niagara Falls Review - - Front Page - GRANT LAFLECHE

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

Alan Caslin

GRANT LAFLECHE THE ST. CATHARINES STAN­DARD

Car­men D'An­gelo, now CAO of the Ni­a­gara Re­gion, down­loaded two draft re­gional re­ports about the CAO po­si­tion six months be­fore he was hired.

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