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LETTER: Decision not to disclose any lawsuit details is nothing new

'This is in no way honest; it shows no integrity as far as transparency is concerned,' reader says
2022-05-17 typing pexels-donatello-trisolino-1375261

PelhamToday received the following letter to the editor from a reader concerned about the Region's decision to keep the details of a lawsuit settlement behind closed doors:

I can’t imagine that anyone following the continued antics of our governments, at any level, will be surprised by this. But for the Regional chair to publicly issue such a strong condemnation of the actions of a predecessor and two senior staff members named in the lawsuit, then actually try to put a positive spin on the fact this lawsuit has been settled, shows no indication that this Niagara Region Council intends to do anything better than previous councils. Whatever happened to ‘A Better Niagara?'

Whilst while various investigative reporters deserve all the accolades they received for working on and breaking this sorry tale of government ineptitude, it always troubled me that they didn’t focus, at least a little bit, on where these highly questionable ‘hiring practices’ began.

That would be with the NPCA at the time, and an elected Regional Councillor appointed to the NPCA board, who decided to apply for a senior staff appointment with the NPCA. He had no background or qualifications in conservation or environmental protection, but applied anyway, and was successful.

In Niagara, we elect our local councils to protect our best interests.

Depending on which of the 12 municipalities we call home, we are told that whoever becomes our Regional representative(s)on Regional Council will also protect our best interests.

And as this sorry story clearly demonstrates, this Regional Council, which includes our own representatives, actually has little interest in, or concern with, any ‘best interests’ of accountability or transparency.

This story is all about how these folk spend and often waste our tax dollars.

But we are not allowed to know just how many of our tax dollars have been spent on this entire ‘CAO hiring process lawsuit,' which has now been settled. You would think that if a settlement has been agreed upon, then the Niagara taxpayers will have at least been reimbursed to some extent. Wouldn’t that be one reason for Niagara Region to publicly celebrate their success?

But we don’t even know whether the two senior staff members named in the lawsuit were actually fired as a result of their actions or were ‘let go’ with some sort of contractual severance deal.

All politicians do now, on the advice of their staff, and the lawyers they retain on our behalf, is to claim that any details regarding just how and why their decisions are made, which in practically every single case involves how they spend or waste the tax dollars we pay them, is somehow confidential and that those of us who actually pay those taxes and so, all those high price severances, are not allowed to know?

This is in no way honest; it shows no integrity as far as transparency is concerned. It doesn’t exist.

It’s almost as though all our elected representatives, rather than hearing the concerns of a growing number of their communities, are increasingly choosing to approve every recommendation their city staff put on each council meeting agenda without even a whimper.

And any such recommendation that includes hundreds of thousands of dollars of severance payouts and legal fees, plus many other financial expenditures and every cent paid for by the taxpayer, are increasingly being made behind closed doors at in-camera meetings!

So the Regional Chair’s decision to refuse to disclose any details of this settlement is nothing new. Staff have been advising most councils to take such matters behind closed doors for years.

They have been so successful that few councils even bother to question them now.

Andrew Watts