April 22, 2014 6:45 pm

Toronto Ombudsman condemns TCHC on staffing, hiring practices

ABOVE: A report from Toronto’s Ombudsman paints a very critical picture of management at Toronto Community Housing. Global’s Jackson Proskow explains what the Ombudsman’s report contains – and who’s in the hot seat. 

TORONTO – Toronto Ombudsman, Fiona Crean, released a scathing report Tuesday following an investigation into improper hiring practices at the Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC).

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The report titled “Unrule(y) Behaviour” found that senior management repeatedly broke TCHC recruitment rules and some of the executives “did not know their obligations.”

“The pattern was set at the top by the CEO, who felt that TCH’s human resource policies did not apply to him. Others took their cue,” Crean said during a media conference.

A Toronto Star report released last week eluded to the possible firing of TCHC CEO Gene Jones in regards to the new findings.

The Ombudsman said witnesses described a “climate of fear that destabilized the workplace.”

“During the 18 months after the CEO’s arrival, 88 staff left TCH, most of them involuntarily, and 96 new staff were hired,” the report read.

“All these changes created chaos,” said Crean. “And left TCH without the necessary skills and adequate institutional memory.”

Read More: How the ombudsman’s report will affect Rob Ford and the TCHC

According to a report by the Globe and Mail, the TCHC is also facing a wrongful-dismissal lawsuit from a former employee who was allegedly fired because of his age.

Court documents show 61-year-old Philip Jeung was let go of his position as the agency’s director of energy conservation two weeks before Christmas in 2013. The high level executive earned $114,000 a year.

The Ombudsman’s report further said some members of the Board of Director “did not ensure that the appropriate recruitment and selection procedures were followed” and promises to be fair, equitable and transparent to employees was “grievously violated.”

Some examples cited include the CEO hiring a new vice president four days before the competition ended.

In another case, Jones hired a manager, promoted her six months later to a senior director with a $30,000 raise without a process or job evaluation.

The report also said senior executives failed to “declare conflict of interest when hiring people they knew personally.”

Mayor Rob Ford said he wasn’t bothered by the alleged pay increases suggesting the person may have deserved the quick promotion.

“I like Eugene, I’ve seen a huge change in Toronto community housing and I want to give him the benefit of a doubt. I support him 100 per cent,” he said. “He had to clean house. Toronto community housing was a mess for years.”

He found it hard to believe Jones wouldn’t know the rules surrounding raises, promotions and firings. Ford said he will “get answers” tomorrow.

Councillor Doug Ford also defended the embattled CEO despite the new allegations.

“I believe in Gene Jones,” Ford told reporters at city hall. “I believe the CEO has the right to make changes that are required.”

Jones was hired in 2012 after the entire TCHC board resigned during a spending controversy as a result of a 2011 report.

In February, Jones was accused of mishandling the departure of an executive and attempting to keep an assistant off the Sunshine List.

As a result of those allegations, Jones lost his 2013 bonus and was forced to get an executive coach.

Ombudsman Crean made 12 recommendations to the TCHC Board and said “they have been accepted.”

They include complying with its own human resource policies and to train its senior executive in using them.

Furthermore, the TCHC is required to standardized its information with regards to hiring and promotion, as well as recommending the conflict of interest policy to be expanded to include past business relationships and other personal associations.

TCHC Board of Directors Chair Norman Purves and CEO Eugene Jones released a joint statement dated April 17 and acknowledged “its actions fell short of the high standard of transparency, equity, fairness and respect that Toronto Community Housing must meet.”

“We accept your findings and will act swiftly to address deficiencies,” the statement read.

The TCHC board reviewed the ombudsman report at a meeting Tuesday but didn’t make any decisions. Instead, the board will continue to evaluate the report on Friday.

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