When we received the good news this August 30th that the Ontario Ombudsman has agreed to come in and investigate serious questions around the hiring of Niagara Region’s CAO Carmen D’Angelo, two regional councillors that had a great deal to do with getting us to that good moment were not available for comment when we posted our first story on this news.
Those two councillors, both representing St. Catharines on the Region’s council, are Kelly Edgar and Brian Heit, and here are their responses to that news now, starting with one from Kelly Edgar –
“I am very pleased that the Ontario Ombudsman has accepted our request to do this investigation – at long last!” said Kelly Edgar in a statement he shared with Niagara At Large.
“I must also add that the 113 or more citizens that lodged complaints with the Ombudsman’s office to get this done should be very happy as well,” Edgar added. “Without their activism and support, who knows whether this investigation would ever have been done?”
“Thank you to all those who chose to help us. You’re the best!”
“Best regards, Kelly Edgar
In a separate statement, St. Catharines regional councillor Brian Heit shared the following response with Niagara At Large –
“Unfortunately months ago, (the Region’s) Council made a mistake hoping that giving the Ombudsman power to Mr. Huberman (a lawyer from Toronto) would have worked, but as we have become aware, he didn’t use the power Council gave him,” said Brian Heit.
“Some of what we have been learning from the Standard’s reporting are some of the same rumours that were prevalent prior to the selection of the CAO.”
“Now with the Ontario Ombudsman handling the investigation,” added Heit, “we will finally get to the bottom of the controversy created by Chair Caslin and his office. I trust Council will have the courage to act accordingly when the investigation is completed.”
Now, this journalist and long-time region watcher wishes to leave you here with just a few words about these two regional councillors and the reason why they deserve your support in the upcoming municipal elections.
When it comes to standing up against the dark, divisive, bully boy conduct that polluted this Caslin-led term of regional council over the past four years, Kelly Edgar and Brian Heit are among a handful of those on the council who have shown the most courage to do just that.
Edgar and Heit were among only eight on the Region’s council, including fellow St. Catharines regional councillor Debbie McGregor, Thorold regional councillor Henry D’Angela, Thorold Mayor Ted Luciani, Pelham Mayor Dave Augustyn, Welland regional councillor George Marshall and Lincoln regional councillor Bill Hodgson, who had the presence of mind two years ago to review the record that was already there about Carmen D’Angelo as CAO of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority (NPCA), and vote against hiring D’Angelo for the Region’s CAO job.
For their trouble, Edgar and Heit were sued by a private consultant for allegedly circulating some information to their fellow councillors before the vote about D’Angelo and his record at the NPCA. The consultant charged that the information contained references to his firm that were defamatory. The lawsuit was eventually dropped – just as a similar suit filed by the same party against St. Catharines citizen activist Ed Smith was dismissed by an Ontario court judge with the past year.
Edgar and Heit have continued to speak out each and every time they believed the actions of Caslin’s cabal were not in the best interests of the people of St. Catharines and Niagara. And they were among the all too few members of the Region’s council that led the call to get Ontario’s Ombudsman to conduct a truly independent investigation of the circumstances surrounding the hiring of D’Angelo and the extension of his contract by Caslin.
There are a total of 22 candidates, including Edgar and Heit, running for the six St. Catharines seats on Niagara Region’s council. And due to the public upset and anger over the record of this Caslin-led regional council, it is looking like people across Niagara are going to the polls this coming October 22nd with an understandable aim to vote for sweeping change.
It is very important to remember though that there are some people now serving on the Region’s council who have truly put the interests of the public first and deserve to be re-elected.
Among them are Kelly Edgar and Brian Heit, and Niagara At Large will continue to remind voters of their good efforts, and those of all too few others on that council who deserve your support in the weeks leading up to the October 22nd vote.
- Doug Draper, reporter and publisher, Niagara At Large