Toronto ombudsman issues scathing TCHC report

The board of the Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) will continue to debate the fate of its CEO Eugene Jones after the City of Toronto’s ombudsman released a scathing report on management practices at the country’s largest public housing agency.

The 111-page report follows Fiona Crean’s investigation into TCHC’s hiring, firing and promotion practices over the last two years under the watch of Jones.

At a news conference on Tuesday morning, she said senior executives, including Jones, repeatedly broke the rules when hiring and promoting employees.

Crean said it was “an alarming tale” of some senior executives ignoring policies and running the agency “as if it was their own personal fiefdom.”

“This is a story about the failure of leadership from the top,” she said.

Crean said the TCHC has some good HR policies, but they just weren’t being followed. She also said the performance management program was used improperly.

TCHC board chair Bud Purves said the board acknowledges the issues brought forth in the report and the will move forward with recommendations.

Purves added that more time is needed to study the report and that the board will continue discussions on Friday.

Mayor Ford reacted to the report late on Tuesday afternoon, defending Jones, saying Crean is picking on Jones.

“I don’t see anything scathing in the report,” Ford said.

When asked about the possibility of the TCHC firing Jones, Ford said “that would do tremendous damage to the city.”

The ombudsman made 12 recommendations in her report, which have been accepted by the TCHC board.

They include standardized information regarding hiring and promotion be compiled and that the board of directors be properly informed about such changes.

Crean also said that Jones felt that HR policies didn’t apply to him; however, the report does not recommend he be fired.

“The CEO set the tone, describing his every move as his prerogative,” she said.

“He believed he had no responsibility for knowing the rules because it was the responsibility of the VP of HR to ensure that they were followed.”

In February 2013, Jones had been facing allegations that he tried to keep an employee off the so-called Sunshine List and had a hand in another employee’s improper firing.

Crean also said the situation at the agency was chaotic. She cited several areas where senior executives repeatedly broke the rules when hiring and promoting employees.

During the investigation, 233 staffing changes occurred, but there were only files for 119 of them, Crean said, adding that almost all the files were incomplete.

In a number of cases, the hiring managers were in conflict of interest. For example, a senior staffer who never applied for a vice-president position was put in the job without an interview, four days before the posting closed.

“Some wage levels were arbitrarily determined. I find it unacceptable for a public organization to determine salaries without an evaluation of the responsibilities and qualifications of the job,” Crean said.

“This not only has caused an inequity between employees with similar jobs, but it could very well have wasted taxpayer money.”

However, Jones could still be fired by the TCHC. The board has a special meeting scheduled for 2:30 p.m. to discuss the report privately.

When asked by reporters if it was time for Jones to go, Coun. Cesar Palacio, who sits on the TCHC board, said the allegations against Jones had not been proven and that Jones has been praised by tenants.

“These are allegations,” Palacio said.

“We have to look at the whole picture in terms of the management. They has been a tremendous push from management in terms of any positive changes to the corporation.

“That was the purpose of hiring the CEO that’s being praised especially by tenants all over the city, in terms of positive changes, great changes that are taking place.”

He said he’s going to ask tough questions but that he is still confident in Jones.

Jones was not immediately available for comment.

Follow tweets from reporter Cynthia Mulligan.

Read the full ombudsman report below:

Toronto ombudsman report on TCHC

Earlier this year, the TCHC voted to keep Jones as CEO.

Board chair Bud Purves said Jones would not receive a bonus and must get an executive coach.

At the time, Mayor Rob Ford said he supported Jones “100 per cent.”

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