Firm hired by Brampton in controversial search for CAO dismissed by Peel Council for similar task
The Region of Peel is looking for a new chief administrative officer, and Carolyn Parrish is determined to ensure the process isn’t similar to Brampton’s.
On Thursday, the Mississauga councillor put forward the now approved motion to not use the same executive search firm as Brampton when it hired its new CAO in the fall, a man unqualified for the job and tainted by scandal.
Job recruitment firm Feldman Daxon Partners assisted with the hiring of David Barrick, the City of Brampton’s current CAO. Members of Brampton council previously stated they were not informed by the firm of Barrick’s past, despite common practices that obligate executive search firms to do thorough screenings to protect employers from candidates who are unfit for the job and can cause reputational damage to the corporation, especially in the government sector.
Brampton CAO David Barrick
In 2016, Barrick, and director of strategic communications for the city, Jason Tamming, were involved in the 2016 process, subsequently labelled an “Inside Job” by the Ontario Ombudsman, to get Carmen D’Angelo the position of Niagara Region’s CAO.
Both Tamming and Barrick were hired by Brampton after their involvement in the scandal and after both were fired from bureaucratic roles in Niagara. Their alarming conduct — Tamming secretly provided D’Angelo interview questions and answers in advance and Barrick secretly told senior staff they would be given advantages if they pushed for D’Angelo’s hiring — was widely reported in the media. D’Angelo, at the time, was Barrick’s boss at Niagara’s provincially governed conservation authority.
After Feldman Daxon recommended both for senior positions in Brampton in 2019, some city councillors, after the scandal became widely familiar because of a provincial Ombudsman investigation report into the matter titled “Inside Job”, expressed shock that they were never informed by the firm of the prior conduct.
Media reports starting in early 2018 detailed the conduct of both men, and would have been readily available to the search firm, which states on its own website that social media and online scans are a routine part of its vetting process.
After the scathing Ombudsman report, Niagara Region Council moved for a full police investigation into the hiring of D’Angelo who is no longer the CAO there. The Ontario Provincial Police is currently investigating the entire matter, which includes the conduct of Barrick and Tamming.
Beyond Barrick’s conduct in the “Inside Job” his glaring lack of experience for the Brampton CAO job has also become a highly contentious issue in the city.
For a position that pays at least $250,000 (the city’s former CAO Harry Schlange made $322,000 in 2017) CAO’s usually have decades of experience, with expertise in business and finance, often with extensive oversight of planning and other municipal governance areas. For CAOs of cities as large as Brampton, with 5,000 employees, candidates usually have experience managing hundreds, if not thousands of staff.
Barrick, who has close ties with Conservative politicians in Niagara, was a Port Colborne regional councillor, before he was given a concurrent job with the region’s conservation authority which became embroiled in scandal. An Ontario Auditor General’s report said his initial hiring by the conservation authority raised red flags.
None of it stopped Feldman Daxon from tapping Barrick for Brampton’s top job, despite his obvious lack of experience, including no financial background, no background in business management and no experience running a large municipal government.
Despite a number of Conservative ties to both Tamming and Barrick, Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown told The Pointer he did not know the two men and did not orchestrate their hiring. He did chair the committee that ultimately decided on Barrick after the search firm was hired to conduct an extensive search.
Jason Tamming, Brampton's head of strategic communications
Dozens of Brampton residents have since contacted The Pointer to express their anger over the hiring of Barrick and Tamming under Brown’s leadership.
The Pointer has learned that a complaint to the Provincial Ombudsman about Barrick’s hiring in Brampton has been filed.
Parrish said there were numerous red flags, as soon as she realized the Region of Peel had hired the same search firm Brampton used under Brown’s watch.
“On the basis this was the company that did some hiring for Brampton, without telling them one of the people being hired was under an investigation, I would suggest we would have absolutely good reason not to fulfill this contract,” Parrish told council.
Mississauga and Regional Councillor Carolyn Parrish
Even before the name of the company was known by Parrish, she knew that Mississauga needed to play a role in the selection of the new Peel CAO. “Our senior staff said that we were pretty foolish to let that happen because it was the only person we're qualified to hire. There’s 24 people on Council and it's the only actual hire that we are qualified to do. Everybody else is hired by the CAO,” Parrish told The Pointer.
In order to learn more about the process, Parrish sent an email Wednesday, a day before the regional council meeting, to Kathryn Lockyer, acting commissioner of corporate services for the Region of Peel, inquiring about the process, giving a heads up that she would bring it up at council the next day. At the regional council meeting Thursday, staff told council three companies came forward in response to an RFP (Request For Proposal) to offer their services to help find the region’s next CAO.
The RFP was put out for companies to submit their ideas, which likely included strategies and safeguards for hiring a new CAO for the region. Responses were received from three companies, including Feldman Daxon.
When Parrish asked staff to talk about the proposals from the three companies, she was informed that the cost of all three companies wasn't examined. The cost for services was only examined for one company, according to Parrish. During the council meeting Thursday, Lockyer said Feldman Daxon was the only company qualified to have the cost analyzed. The qualifications are based on a number of factors, Lockyer said, including their “...proven reputation and capacity in CAO executive leadership recruitment.”
That statement raised concern for Parrish. “When we do RFPs in Mississauga, you don't automatically award it to the lowest bidder... I don't know how you could go through three bids and not know what their prices are,” she told The Pointer.
When the name of the company was first revealed, it didn't ring a bell to Parrish. “And then somebody beside me said, that's the Brampton company. And then I looked around [and] all the Brampton guys were kind of shaking their heads or wiggling in their seats. So I went, `oh, dear, that is the company’.”
During the meeting, Lockyer said the firm was already told they were hired before the email from Parrish. The other two companies who did not get the contract were not informed of the decision. No members of council who represent Brampton addressed the matter publicly.
In Brampton’s case, the firm failed to mention Barrick’s past to the council committee that oversaw his hiring, according to Brampton Councillor Jeff Bowman, who told The Pointer the committee was in the dark, despite information being widely available in the media.
Nor did it provide council members with a comparative analysis of his experience that would have raised concern about the level of expertise Barrick brought with him.
While Barrick was not directly named in the Ombudsman’s report, it details lobbying efforts he made toward Niagara Region’s treasurer at the time, but the Ombud explained that he chose not to disclose names in the public report. However, long before he was hired by Brampton, the St. Catharines Standard newspaper confirmed it was Barrick who tried to interfere in the hiring process by suggesting to the treasurer that he would gain advantages if he pushed for D’Angelo.
The paper published an email from Barrick’s personal account to the treasurer, that details how Barrick tried to interfere in what was supposed to be a fair process in order to get his boss the Niagara CAO job.
According to the private email obtained by the Standard, the treasurer was promised influence by Barrick for helping D’Angelo land the job.
Perhaps just as troubling as Barrick’s role in the “Inside Job” was his performance as the Niagara Region CAO, a position he was elevated to, replacing D’Angelo, after his former boss got the region’s CAO position.
Feldman Daxon would have easily been able to find media reports on how badly Barrick managed the agency and how he botched its budget, infuriating regional councillors who questioned why millions of budgeted dollars they were responsible for, had no explanation from Barrick. During the agency's 2019 budget process, Barrick could not account for a full third of its budget request and when councillors asked him to explain the 2018 budget he failed to account for a third of the agency's spending.
An Ontario Auditor General report detailed how Barrick had promoted people to senior positions with the agency and gave them $1,000 a month vehicle allowances. He had previously been fired by the conservation authority before he was suddenly re-hired as its CAO. After Niagara councillors expressed disbelief with the agency budgets he presented he left shortly after.
None of this was flagged by Feldman Daxon when it recommended Barrick for Brampton’s top job, according to Bowman. Barrick is now responsible for a billion dollar budget and oversees some 5,000 staff.
Feldman Daxon did not respond to requests for comment after it recommended Barrick for the job. And it remains unclear how the firm was chosen by the city, after Brown became mayor, to help hire Barrick and Tamming.
The Pointer reached out to Peel Region to find out how Feldman Daxon, despite a number of media reports detailing its role in the Brampton hirings, was selected to handle Peel’s CAO search. The region did not respond prior to publication.
Whoever was involved in the selection of the firm might not have liked what eventually happened Thursday.
After an in-camera session on the matter during Thursday’s regional council meeting, Parrish led a motion to cancel the contract, which was successful.
“The guys were hired Wednesday afternoon and they were fired Thursday afternoon,” she told The Pointer.
The task of finding the next CAO is now the responsibility of the region’s policies and procedures committee, which Parrish is the chair of. Consulting companies are no longer responsible for the task. “It’s out of the hands of the human resources department and the region because it’s shaken my confidence in what they're doing just a little bit,” Parrish said.
She was a major critic of the previous CAO, David Szwarc, after shocking revelations of his conduct, before he left the job last year.
Freedom of information documents obtained by The Pointer showed how Szwarc had secretly worked behind the scenes to undermine Mississauga’s desire to leave the region and become an independent municipality, during last year’s provincial review that explored the possibility of disbanding regional government.
Szwarc had sided with Brown, who also sought to keep the region intact. The behind the scenes conspiring of senior staff, infuriated Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie and her local council colleagues.
It also made them realize how important an impartial Peel CAO is for the future of Mississauga.
The next step to find a person for the job, after Szwarc stepped down amid the controversy last year, involves sending a questionnaire to the members of regional council to see what characteristics and strengths they want to see in a new CAO, Parrish said.
This information will be turned into a profile, and an ad will be published encouraging those interested to apply. The committee will go through the applications and interview candidates, presenting the best two or three to council for an interview, Parrish told The Pointer.
The mayors of Brampton, Mississauga and Caledon all sit on the committee. Brampton Regional Councillors Pat Fortini and Martin Medeiros also sit on the committee.
Meanwhile, Barrick and Tamming are part of the police investigation into the Niagara “Inside Job”.
The OPP told The Pointer the investigation is in the works. “The OPP is currently reviewing the information at the request of Niagara Regional Police,” staff sergeant Carolle Dionne, manager for media relations, said.
Both Barrick and Tamming are part of a growing group of senior Brampton staff who have recently been hired from Niagara Region. The latest to join the city is Maciej Jurczyk. He was the director of an internal auditing team for Niagara Region and now holds a similar position in Brampton.
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