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Friday, September 30, 2022
Town adopts ombudsman recommendations on hiring practices

In efforts to ensure more transparency during the town’s hiring processes and to strengthen the internal code of conduct and confidentiality policies, Niagara-on-the-Lake councillors held an hour-long workshop on Monday, Jan 20.

As the town is in the process of searching for a new chief administrative officer, the last November's Ontario ombudsman's “Inside Job” report on the controversial hiring of ousted Niagara Region CAO Carmen D’Angelo prompted NOTL council to adopt 15 recommendations from the report in December.

During Monday’s workshop, councillors went through each of the recommendations with town’s human resources generalist, Sarah Stevens, discussing what policies and practices the town has in place and what guidelines can be updated or implemented to reflect the ombudsman’s recommendations.

Coun. Gary Burroughs wanted to make sure the town’s policies outline exactly what the ombudsman was recommending.

“I was on the council at the region when this went on. I can assure you most of us assumed we had a confidentiality paragraph, assumed everybody was following the rules and, obviously, they weren’t,” he told councillors.

“I really want to make sure not only do we say it, but we have some way of making sure it’s actually happening.”

Interim chief administrative officer Sheldon Randall said the town takes most of its staff at “face value” and that the staff will follow the rules and the policies. If someone violates a policy, the staff will take action and investigate, which can result in discipline or firing, Randall said.

“We have an effective administration in place and we will act accordingly if there is a breach of policies,” he said.

Coun. Stuart McCormack noted enforcement takes place after the fact and the town should be educating its employees more about their obligations because problems occur when people aren’t constantly reminded or educated enough, he said, suggesting a more robust form of education.

With some amendments, town council approved all 15 recommendations and directed town staff to create and strengthen existing policies within a six-month period.