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Community housing board members resign; lash out at Ford's 'bullying tactics'

Days after the release of a set of damning city audits, the civilian members of the Toronto Community Housing board announced their resignations Thursday and in a parting statement slammed Mayor Rob Ford for his use of “bullying tactics.”

Seven civilian board members and chair David Mitchell declared they were stepping down, effective immediately, at a TCHC emergency meeting Thursday morning. There are nine civilian positions on the agency’s board. Two tenant representatives will remain in their positions even though Ford wants them out as well.

The mayor reportedly plans to settle on replacements in the next few weeks.

“Mayor Ford does not appear to respect our work nor our willingness to do our job as a board. Nor does he respect our skills and the improvements at TCHC. I cannot work with a Mayor who uses bullying tactics to deal with responsible citizens who are carrying out the directions of City Council outlined in the Shareholder Agreement,” TCHC board director Ron Struys said in a statement Thursday afternoon.

The resignations came after Toronto auditor general Jeff Griffiths released two reports Monday that outlined several examples of inappropriate spending and wasteful procurement practices. The shocking details include staff expenditures of nearly $100,000 on Christmas parties; $1,925 at a local spa; $1,850 on a “staff development” four-hour cruise and $1,000 on chocolates from Holt Renfrew.

The audits also revealed the agency awarded untendered contracts and squandered opportunities to save millions in the procurement process.

Ford called on the board to resign hours after the reports were made public. On Tuesday, the civilian board members issued a defiant statement, highlighting their achievements.

Mitchell slammed Ford for not contacting board members directly and issuing his call for their resignations through the media.

The mayor indicated this week he wants to privatize the housing agency, which is one of the largest landlords in North America, but didn’t go into specifics on how he’d do that.

Meanwhile, the union that represents 375 TCHC workers is calling on the housing agency to be brought under direct management of the city.

“Housing is a basic human need, and privatization of the TCHC is not the way to go,” Ann Dembinski, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 79, said.