Niagara Regional council held a special meeting last Thursday to discuss what the next steps are going to be in response to the Ombudsman Report that investigated the hiring process of Carmen D’Angelo as regional CAO.
The Ombudsman said it was an inside job, and because of possible future litigation, council went in camera to discuss the report.
An hour and a half later, they came back to the public meeting with three motions to be voted on and debated. They were, one, to turn the report over to the NRP to investigate if there was any criminal action; two, to investigate if there is a case for civil action; and three, to adopt all of the Ombudsman’s recommendations.
Of course, many of us in attendance expected a polarized, robust discussion and debate on the pros and cons of these motions. But to everyone’s surprise, this new council seemed to be on the same page. There was no grandstanding, no name-calling and no division.
Coun. Gary Zalepa was the first to speak to the first motion to send the report to the police. “I ran for the Region to bring honesty, integrity and good behaviour to local government, and restore people’s faith in their government,” he said.
And that is exactly what happened. All three motions passed unanimously, with not one councillor speaking against them.
After years of questionable behaviour from certain members of the previous council, it was refreshing to see what good, ethical and responsible government looks like. There is an old saying: we get the government we deserve. First we elect them, and then we allow them to stay. The results of the last municipal election proved that people were watching, and they voiced their disapproval of the last regional council by voting the disruptive elements out.
Don’t get me wrong: it is permissible to have heated debates on policy, but it is never permissible to personally attack a person’s character in order to make your point. That seemed to be much of what was happening with the previous council.
he visceral divisiveness was something that has never been seen in Niagara, and many didn’t know how to handle it.
I don’t want to go into how many backroom deals were done, and how many laws may have been broken, but what I will say, is that it is really refreshing to see a regional council that has integrity, transparency and honesty.
There is an old Armenian saying, “The fish rots from the head.” If you look at the difference between how former chair Alan Caslin ran the meetings and how Chair Bradley runs the meetings, you will see calmness and mutual respect resonating around the table.
It goes without saying that we in Niagara must thank Ed Smith, from For a Better Niagara, along with reporter Grant LaFleche and the St. Catharines Standard, for their dogged pursuit of the truth. All elected members in the Niagara Region should take notice that when pushed far enough, the people will stand up and speak, and they will speak loudly, with conviction.
Will this council make some mistakes?
Probably, but it looks like everyone is there for the right reasons. Therefore, even if stray off the path from time to time, with transparency, honesty and mutual respect, they should be able to return to the right path, that will serve the citizens of Niagara for the better.