TORONTO - Mayor Rob Ford stood by Toronto Community Housing CEO Gene Jones Tuesday while the board itself has yet to decide how to deal with the embattled boss.
Ford’s staunch support for Jones came the same day ombudsman Fiona Crean released her report alleging senior staff at the affordable housing provider broke the rules when it came to hiring and firing non-union and management staff, created an environment of “chaos,” and ran the organization “like their own personal fiefdom.”
Crean’s report, entitled ‘Unrule(y) Behaviour,’ immediately put Jones — who was stripped of his 2013 bonus by the board in February — on the hot seat yet again.
“This is a story about the failure of leadership from the top,” Crean said.
Ford argued there may be “more to it than meets the eye” and says he’s waiting to hear from Jones.
“I support Eugene Jones, I know he’s done a great job at Toronto Community Housing but obviously some of the stuff in that I read, I want to hear his side of the story,” Ford said.
“It’s more of an HR thing if you ask me ... I like Eugene, I’ve seen a huge change at (TCHC).”
The mayor said he didn’t see anything “scathing” in the report.
“He had to clean house — Toronto Community Housing was a mess for years,” Ford said. “I think they are picking on him or singling him out.”
Rob Ford reacts to Ombudsman Fiona Crean's report on TCHC from Don Peat on Vimeo.
But Crean argued that TCHC’s “house is not in order.”
“There is an abject failure of leadership,” she said.
In her report, Crean finds in the first 18 months Jones was on the job, 88 staff left the corporation, “most of them involuntarily,” and 96 staff were hired. Of the 88 that left, 45 were fired (41 without cause), 32 resigned and 11 retired.
While Crean couldn’t provide an exact amount for the severance payments, she said they would have been “significant.”
“All these changes created chaos,” Crean states.
She goes on to argue some TCHC wage levels were arbitrarily determined.
“It could very well have wasted taxpayer money,” she said.
In another example outlined in the report, Jones hired Lisa-Joan Overholt as a manager and promoted her six months later to a senior director with a $30,000 raise without a process, job description, evaluation or competition.
Ford said the raises don’t bother him.
“I always like to pay on performance,” he said. “You can’t pay anyone the some, some people get big increases.”
TCHC board members met in closed session for three hours on Tuesday to discuss the report and hear from Jones.
After the meeting, chairman Bud Purves acknowledged the report “identifies a number of serious issues, these are issues of leadership, improper management practices and insufficient oversight.”
“The board acknowledges the need to address these issues,” Purves said.
“We’ve made progress, but we agreed that more time is needed to further study.”
The board will be meet to discuss the report on Friday.
A TCHC spokesman confirmed Jones remains employed as the CEO.
Councillor Paula Fletcher said she wants to know the cost of these TCHC human resources decisions and whether it is “more than the $5 box of chocolates” that led to the last shake-up at TCHC.
“I’d certainly like to know the cost of cleaning house to the corporation and ultimately to the city,” Fletcher said.
“Not following the rules is a hallmark of our mayor, so I hope that Mr. Jones and others didn’t think that they don’t have to follow the rules either.”
Councillor Cesar Palacio — a TCHC board member — says Jones still has his confidence.
“These are allegations at the moment,” Palacio said. “I can assure you I’m going to be asking very tough questions.”
Councillor Doug Ford said he believes in Jones.
“I believe (that) a CEO has the right to make changes that are required,” Ford said.
Here are some of the Toronto Community Housing human resources issues outlined by ombudsman Fiona Crean in her report on Tuesday:
A day after Gene Jones was hired, he promoted a director to become interim vice-president of human resources with no resumes or applications. One month later, the acting assignment became permanent with no competition.
Senior executives failed to declare a conflict of interest when hiring people they knew personally.
Jones hired a manager and promoted her six months later to a senior director with a $30,000 raise without a process, job description, evaluation or competition.
Jones hired the interim vice-president facilities management as the vice-president of asset management four days before the competition for the job closed and without him actually applying for the job.
Jones put his executive assistant into a management-level category but still allowed her to claim paid overtime — something not permitted by the rules.
Changes to employment contracts altered fundamental terms of employment for non-union staff.
Of the 88 staff that left TCHC between June 2012 and October 2013, 45 were fired (41 of the 45 were fired without cause), 32 resigned and 11 retired. The ombudsman didn’t have a cost estimate for the severances.
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