Ombudsman closes file on contentious 2016 CAO hiring after all recommendations enacted
In a letter addressed to Regional Chair Jim Bradley, Ontario Ombudsman J. Paul Dubé confirmed that his office will be closing their file on the tainted 2016 Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) hiring process, expressing thanks for the cooperation he experienced from the Region.
In the letter dated Sept. 7, 2022, the Ombudsman confirmed that Regional Council has successfully implemented all 16 recommendations found in his 2019 “Inside Job” report. Given council’s willingness to implement these changes, the Ombudsman’s letter indicates that “no further follow up reports are required and my Office will be closing our file in this matter.”
The 71-page “Inside Job” report responded to over 110 formal complaints registered with the Ontario Ombudsman’s office by members of the public. These complaints called on the Ombudsman to investigate the how the 2016 CAO hiring process was carried out, and many other related issues.
In addition to providing an extensive overview of the situation, and his findings, the Ombudsman gave Regional Council several recommendations to help avoid similar issues in the future. Some of these recommendations include:
- Implement a formal code of ethics and policies to protect confidential information, including employment contracts, and that anyone involved in a hiring process is required to sign a confidentiality agreemen
- Provide staff and councillors with additional training on the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act as well the proper use and retention of email and corporate records
- Create policies that ensure no candidate is given an unfair advantage in a hiring process (including sharing interview questions and answers with one specific individual)
- Limit the role and influence of staff in the Regional Chair’s Office as to avoid them undermining the professional staff throughout the corporation
- Adopt a formal hiring and performance appraisal process for the Chief Administrative Officer
- Adopt a by-law outlining the relationship between the CAO and Regional Council, including Council’s authority in setting compensation
- Ensure that the Region’s legal and human resources staff review all changes made to employment contracts before making changes
In addition to the full list of recommendations that can be found in the report
, the Ombudsman also recommended that the Niagara Region report publicly, and to his office, on the progress being made to implementation the above recommendations. With the file being closed, the Ombudsman is satisfied that his recommendations have been effectively implemented by Regional Council.
""While the 2016 CAO hiring process, and the resulting fallout, will long be remembered as stain on the Region’s reputation, this term of council made it a top priority to take immediate action on this matter. As a team, we implemented all of the Ombudsman’s recommendations, ensuring we took every step necessary to prevent this type of controversy from occurring again. I want to thank Mr. Dubé, and his staff, for the exceptional report and recommendations, as well as their commitment to work with us as we implemented policies to make the Region more open, fair and transparent. The residents of Niagara deserved better, and these new policies and practices will help make sure we are living up to our constituents’ appropriately high expectations.""
~ Regional Chair Jim Bradley
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