Patrick Brown orchestrated $70K hiring of two former Niagara employees with a scandalous history

·13 min read

The City of Brampton spent $70,000 to hire two disgraced former Niagara employees.

Freedom of Information requests filed by The Pointer reveal a total of $30,042.03 was spent to hire David Barrick as the chief administrative officer in October 2019. Jason Tamming was hired as the director of strategic communications in May 2019 at a cost of $39,840.61 to Brampton taxpayers.

The executive search firm Feldman Daxon Partners Inc. was used for the recruitment of both employees, selected by the company despite years of media reports that detailed their shocking behaviour before they were both fired from their previous public sector roles in Niagara Region.

The City of Brampton for months attempted to block the disclosure of public information showing how Barrick and Tamming were hired. The Pointer filed requests for the details in November but was denied and told sharing the information would reveal a “trade secret” of Feldman Daxon, impacting the employment firm’s ability to keep its pricing and processing methods confidential.

The City, whose bureaucracy is now run by Barrick, the CAO, also argued the information requested involved employment matters, and could be kept confidential under the Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (MFIPPA).

Prior to the hiring of Barrick as CAO, who now has authority over all staff, similar requests have been made to the City, and public information regarding how taxpayer dollars were used to hire executives was revealed. The City has even previously disclosed this information on its own to the public, to show that it is transparent about the use of taxpayer funds. But that has not been the pattern since Barrick’s hiring, and the string of controversies that have followed.

In 2012, the Information and Privacy Commissioner (IPC) of Ontario, a body overseeing access to information rights and responsibilities, ordered the City to share information on square footage costs for the controversial $205 million City Hall West Tower expansion, after initially refusing to do so.

The City claimed providing such information would be harmful to the parties involved. In its decision, the IPC stated the City provided no evidence of this. “The need for public accountability in the expenditure of public funds is an important reason behind the need for ‘detailed and convincing’ evidence,” the IPC stated in its decision to order the release of the information.

The same reasoning was presented by the City to The Pointer when attempts were made to find out how the two men were hired, despite their disqualifying conduct in Niagara and Barrick’s complete lack of experience. Appeals were filed to the IPC, arguing the publication of costs to hire the two current executives would not reveal specific contractual terms or the scope and methodology of Feldman Daxon’s work.

Before the IPC could continue with its mediation process around the request for public information, Feldman Daxon had the opportunity to file an appeal, explaining why publicly sharing the information requested would be harmful.

The Pointer was told by the IPC that Feldman Daxon did not file an appeal.

The disclosure of information raises a number of questions around the handling of the hiring process that brought the two men to City Hall.

Feldman Daxon sent a total of four invoices to the City for each hiring. To fill the CAO position in the fall of 2019, three separate invoices of $9,416.29 each were sent to the City. A fourth invoice outlined advertising costs of $1,793.16.

Babu Nagalingam, Mayor Patrick Brown’s chief of staff, is cc’d on all invoices regarding Barrick’s hiring.

The first invoice of $9,416.29 is dated September 12, 2019, one day after Council voted to “engage” Feldman Daxon for the CAO hiring job, according to minutes from the September 11, 2019 City Council meeting.

The minutes show Brown and his office were given authority by council on the mayor’s order, to contact Feldman Daxon to lead the hiring. It’s unclear how an invoice could be sent less than a day after council voted to use the company recommended by Brown.

The minutes suggest the international firm previously used by the City for such hiring was “no longer available” to do the work. The Pointer contacted the firm, Odgers Berndtson, but it would not comment on past relations with clients.

A source told The Pointer Odgers Berndtson refused to take part in the CAO hiring process because Brown’s staff demanded Barrick be put on the short list for the job, despite his troubled past and complete lack of experience. Barrick had never even managed a small city department prior to taking over control of the entire City Hall administration and overseeing some 5,000 staff.

Brown and his staff have refused to answer questions. Feldman Daxon has not responded to numerous requests for answers.

Barrick, whose time as a small-town Niagara councillor is his main experience, was paid more than $322,000 in salary and benefits last year.

At an August 28, 2019 special Council meeting, called specifically to discuss the hiring of the CAO, Brown presented a motion that gave his office the power to select the “executive recruitment firm.” He did not share why he would lead the hiring, only stating, “As the Mayor, I serve as the chair of the committee.”

Nowhere in the Municipal Act does it specify who is to lead the search committee for the CAO’s hiring.

Closed session minutes from the August 28 meeting show Odgers Berndtson, one of the world’s largest search firms, was originally asked to complete the hiring. At the next council meeting, with no explanation, the firm was dropped. Minutes from the closed session of the September 11 City Council meeting show Feldman Daxon would be used instead.

A day later the firm sent an invoice for almost $10,000.

During the hiring process that led to Barrick’s employment, Feldman Daxon failed to mention his involvement in the hiring scandal for Niagara Region’s former CAO, Carmen D’Angelo, who had been Barrick’s boss at the region’s conservation agency.

An investigation by Ontario’s Ombudsman resulted in a damning report titled “Inside Job” that showed Barrick secretly told the Region’s treasurer at the time that supporting D’Angelo for CAO behind the scenes would win future favours and influence for him. Barrick was a Port Colborne councillor at the time working for D’Angelo at the conservation authority.

Ontario’s auditor general had publicly reported that Barrick’s hiring by the agency was not handled properly, a transparent and fair process was not used, and that Barrick should not have held the management position which seemed to have been created just for him, while he was a sitting Port Colborne and Niagara Region councillor.

His boss at the time, at the conservation agency, eventually got the Region’s CAO job, and Barrick was eventually made the CAO of the conservation authority before he was fired following his mismanagement and involvement with the rigged “Inside Job” hiring process for D’Angelo.

All of this information was readily available to Feldman Daxon when it was supposed to properly vet each candidate for Brampton’s top job. Brampton councillors have since said they were alarmed when they found out about Barrick’s past only after he was hired and they could not explain why Feldman Daxon did not disclose the information.

For a brief period, Barrick became the head of the Niagara conservation agency, handing out lavish car allowances and allowing grievances to pile up, before being fired. He had no experience to meet the requirements of Brampton’s incredibly demanding CAO role and has a number of direct conservative political ties with Brown, the former leader of the Ontario PC party, a clear conflict of interest, which was also never disclosed.

This information was only revealed through the media after Barrick had already been hired, leaving those councillors not aligned with Brown furious.

Councillor Rowena Santos, Brown’s main soldier on council, has consistently defended Barrick.

Another unexplained matter is the hiring of Tamming months before Barrick was tapped by Feldman Daxon.

It was widely reported that Tamming, who was working as a communications manager for Niagara Region at the time, had been involved in creating the questions and answers for the CAO interview process. He secretly gave this information to D’Angelo ahead of his interviews.

Media reports detailing his alarming conduct were again easily accessible to Feldman Daxon, but the firm still recommended Tamming to head the communications department for the City of Brampton, and the firm was then again engaged by Brown to hire Barrick months later.

The Ontario Ombudsman’s scathing “Inside Job” investigation report on the rigged Niagara CAO hiring process details Tamming’s conduct, and Barrick’s involvement.

Both were fired, but Feldman Daxon never disclosed this to council when they were hired in Brampton. Widespread mismanagement began soon after they started.

Barrick immediately handed out consulting contracts totaling $218,000 to a close political associate, Tony Quirk, a former Niagara councillor part of the same conservative “cabal” as Barrick who had been on the board of the Niagara conservation authority with him. Brampton council was never informed of Quirk’s hiring.

Barrick also allegedly ignored procurement practices and hired a close conservative associate of Brown, for a consulting job worth approximately $300,000 despite having no experience in the area.

Barrick illegally took over the freedom of information process, moving it from a direct line of reporting to council through the City Clerk under his own office, before councillors intervened and reinstalled the independence of the role.

He then attempted to put the independent internal audit department under his direct authority before council had to stop him, but not before they found out Barrick oversaw a secretive process to hide internal audit findings and close off staff complaints of fraud that were handled by internal audit.

The final two invoices from Feldman Daxon came on October 23, 2019, five days after the City officially announced Barrick’s hiring. It’s unclear why the invoices were broken up into two but sent on the same day.

Another unexplained matter is the timing of Barrick’s hiring. Information obtained by The Pointer shows the interview process for the CAO hiring took place at the Hilton Garden Inn in Brampton, Thursday and Friday, October 17 and 18, 2019, when all the selected candidates were supposed to be put through an extensive round of questioning. This process, according to the documents, concluded at 5 p.m. on Friday the 18th of October, 2019.

On the same day, the City of Brampton officially announced Barrick’s hiring.

How could he have signed a contract when final interviews of candidates for the CAO job were being conducted right till the end of the same work day?

Brown and the City have refused to answer questions about the timing of Barrick’s hiring.

It also remains unclear why Brown insisted on Feldman Daxon to lead the hiring and why a proper bidding process was not used. In a separate FOI response, The Pointer was told Feldman Daxon is “not linked to a particular position but are used for all executive searches on an as needed and when required basis,” resulting from a request for proposals (RFP) put out in 2016.

Natalie Stogdill, a spokesperson for the City, provided a list of search companies the City has utilized since 2013. Feldman Daxon was included on the list but no specifics were provided about when the search firm started working for the City.

The first time Feldman Daxon appears under RFP2016-081, one of the two RFPs put out in 2016, is the fourth quarter of 2019 under “contract renewal.” According to the City’s website, this is an “amendment extending the terms and increasing the value” of the contract.

According to information Stogdill provided, Feldman Daxon has been paid $469,752. It’s unclear if the costs outlined in the invoices for Barrick and Tamming’s hiring are in addition to this figure. The Pointer asked the City for clarification, and a number of other questions, but no response was received ahead of publication.

Purchasing reports between 2013 and 2020 were examined and Feldman Daxon doesn’t appear under the “competitive label,” for the RFPs mentioned. The City defines this as “a public procurement process” that would have required an open bidding to secure work with a successful vendor. It’s unclear how the firm can have its contract renewed when there’s no record of an initial contract being awarded.

The only time Feldman Daxon was engaged under a “competitive process” was for specialized searches under RFP2016-039. The firm's contract under this RFP doesn’t appear to be extended or renewed, according to publicly available documents. An examination of purchasing reports between 2013 and 2020 shows the first time Feldman Daxon was engaged by the City was under this RFP in Q2 2017.

Both men hired from Niagara have ties to Brown through similar political circles. Prior to Tamming working in municipal government, he worked as a staffer for the federal Conservative party while Brown was an MP under former prime minister Stephen Harper.

Tamming’s former boss and Niagara Region chair, Alan Caslin, was also associated with Rick Dykstra, a former Conservative MP who served with Brown and then was his closest advisor when Brown was vying to become Ontario premier and Dykstra was the PC party president. Both Brown and Dykstra resigned after allegations of sexual misconduct were levelled against each. They both have denied the allegations. Barrick also worked closely with Dykstra, who is from Niagara and represented St. Catharines as an MP.

Barrick and Brown are also linked through Harper’s former chief of staff Guy Giorno. Brown previously shared that the two were very close friends since he was a teenager. Barrick hired Giorno to handle undisclosed legal work during his controversial time as head of the conservation agency.

The FOI documents obtained by The Pointer show early connections Feldman Daxon had with the City to fill Tamming’s position included a letter sent to Joe Pittari, the former commissioner of corporate services and interim CAO, on February 27, 2019. Pittari left the City shortly after. A majority of the letter has been redacted, but part of it shows Patrick Rowan, a partner at the firm thanking Pittari for using Feldman Daxon for the recruitment that led to Tamming’s hiring in the spring of 2019.

The first invoice was sent on February 27, 2019 for $12,430. The second invoice was on March 7, for a cost of $2,550.61 for advertisements. The third invoice for fees was sent April 1, and the fourth on May 2, 2019, for $12,430 each.

Despite the failure to disclose Tamming’s and Barrick’s past, Feldman Daxon was just hired again by Barrick to recruit the City’s next treasurer. The deadline to submit applications to the firm was yesterday.

Email: nida.zafar@thepointer.com

Twitter: @nida_zafar

Tel: 416 890-7643

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Nida Zafar, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Pointer

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