Mayor Rob Ford is once again defending Gene Jones, the CEO of Toronto Community Housing, after a scathing report was released by the city's ombudsman.
"Is he perfect? No," Ford told reporters, a defence he has used for himself as well.
"There's minor mistakes that happen in every office," the mayor went on to say.
He adds that he doesn't think there is anything scathing in the report.
That report, released by ombudsman Fiona Crean on Tuesday, found that there has been improper hiring, promotions and salary increase practices at TCHC.
"It's an alarming tale of some senior executives ignoring policy and running an organization as though it was their own personal fiefdom," Crean says. "Unilateral decisions and inequitable treatment became the norm."
She adds that this was a pattern "set at the top" by CEO Gene Jones, who was hired in 2012 with mayor Rob Ford's endorsement.
"The CEO set the tone, describing his every move as his prerogative," Crean says of Jones.
In the over 100-page report, she lists many examples of TCHC's human resources rules not being followed:
- One day after being appointed, the CEO promoted a director to become the interim Vice President, Human Resources. No resumes or applications were reviewed, no candidates interviewed. One month later, the acting assignment was made permanent, again without a competition. The promotion never went to the Board for approval.
- The CEO hired a new vice president four days before the competition closed. When asked if this prevented other qualified candidates from applying, the CEO replied “No. Absolutely not.”
- In another case the CEO hired a manager, promoted her six months later to a senior director with a $30,000 raise, without a process, job description, job evaluation or competition.
- The CEO put his executive assistant into a management level category allowing her to claim paid overtime, something not permitted by the rules.
- Changes to employment contracts altered fundamental terms of employment for non-union staff, and eliminated long-held common law rights to notice and severance pay. The policy change was made without proper approvals and inadequate notice to staff.
- Senior executives failed to declare a conflict of interest when hiring people they knew personally.
To make matters worse for Jones, Crean says that when she met with him on April 15, he had failed to look through her draft report "thoroughly."
"He didn't engage," she told reporters. "I was surprised by that demeanour."
But when she was asked whether she thinks Jones can continue on as CEO, Crean said it was not for her to determine.
"I will not make any recommendations with respect to labour relations. It is not my purview nor my jurisdiction," Crean says. "What I have put in front of the board (of directors) is a set of decisions that presumably they're going to have to make."
The mayor says getting rid of Jones would not be a "smart move" right now.
"That will do a tremendous amount of damage to this city," Ford says. "I will not be happy with that decision."
Crean has put forward a set of 12 recommendations. They include:
- That TCH comply with its own policy framework, and that any changes must be properly communicated to staff with appropriate notice.
- That TCH train its senior executives regarding human resource policies and requirements and that all decision makers be properly trained with respect to the recruitment rules.
- That the Conflict of Interest Policy be expanded to capture past business relationships and other personal associations
The board held a special closed-door meeting Tuesday afternoon to go over the report.
Chairman Bud Purves told reporters afterwards that the board is taking the matter seriously and accepts that the organization's human resources function has to be modernized.
He says, though, that the board needs more time to discuss the report and will continue the meeting on Friday morning.