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44 Comments

politics

Where the TCHC Scandal Goes From Here

CEO Gene Jones could find himself out of job on Friday—but his supporters are starting to hit back at the ombudsman.

Photo by That Boy, from the Torontoist Flickr pool.

In response to ombudsman Fiona Crean’s scathing report on hiring and practices at the Toronto Community Housing Corporation, the organization’s board of directors held a special meeting yesterday. No decisions were reached, however, because the board determined it needed more time to review the 111-page document and adjourned the meeting until Friday.

The report presents a damning indictment of the social housing agency’s hiring and firing practices, details arbitrary raises given to certain executives, and holds higher-ups responsible for an “abject failure of leadership” that fostered a “climate of fear” in the workplace. It finds that CEO Gene Jones made impulsive and arbitrary decisions contrary to established HR policies and procedures—policies and procedures with which he admitted he was not familiar.

It’s possible the board of directors could decide to fire Gene Jones, who’s served as the CEO of TCHC since June 2012, at Friday’s meeting. But there will be some resistance to this option. Councillor and TCHC board member Cesar Palacio (Ward 17, Davenport) told reporters yesterday that Jones has done a “phenomenal” job and added in an April 2 council meeting that “there has been tremendous changes for the better, especially since the new CEO was hired. [Jones] brought transparency, accountability, openness, with that level of passion, integrity that Toronto Community Housing is changing for the better.”

Board member Frances Nunziata (Ward 11, York South-Weston) has also been a strong supporter. After Jones was admonished by the TCHC board in February for not being aware of HR salary protocols, Nunziata said, “He’s done the best job ever for this corporation.” Doug Ford, too, rose to the CEO’s defence yesterday, unwittingly evoking Harvey Dent by saying, “I believe in Gene Jones.” And last night on Joe Warmington’s Newstalk 1010 radio show, Mayor Rob Ford called into question the motivations and overall usefulness of the ombudsman. “I think they’re just trying to kneecap [Gene Jones],” he told the Sun columnist, adding, “I don’t know why we’re paying millions and millions of dollars to all of these accountability officers.”

Ford has tried to discredit accountability officers in the past, and last night suggested consolidating their different responsibilities—which are mandated by the City of Toronto Act—into one office. This could suggest where the debate about the ombudsman’s report might be headed. Regardless of what the TCHC board decides, the ombudsman’s report will head to council in two weeks to be debated at its May meeting. But at that same meeting, council will also discuss whether to re-appoint the ombudsman—which could set up a situation in which council would essentially have to choose between Fiona Crean and Gene Jones.

At City Hall today, Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti (Ward 7, York West) referred to Crean and the two other accountability officers as “goons for the left.” (Mammoliti is himself currently facing multiple ethics controversies, one involving a court battle over campaign finance violations that, if it results in his conviction, could prohibit him from running for re-election.)

Crean told Torontoist that Mammoliti’s comment was unfortunate, saying, “My job is to investigate matters, and that’s what I’ve done.” She added that she does so without any political agenda, and that she investigates individuals of all stripes: “So long as someone is mad at me, I’m probably doing my job.”

Asked how the TCHC scandal compares to others she has seen, Crean responded, “In my 30 years of experience, I have never seen such a flagrant abuse of policy.”

Comments

  • AboveTheCity

    How can accounts of what’s gone on at the TCHC, and Gene Jones behavior in particular be so diametrically opposed? The Ombudsman’s report, which we hope is coming from a place of neutrality, and without influence, is extraordinarily damning, and then on the other side Rob Ford and other supporters going on and on about a, “phenomenal job”!

    Of course, because of the Mayor’s and his brother Doug’s prevalence for lying, dishonesty and making things up, whatever They have to say about this needs to be discredited and dismissed out of hand.

    • Dr. Blitz

      It’s true that the Ombudsman and the Ford supporters differ. But it seems to me that the Ombudsman is basing her assessment on demonstrable facts, whereas the Ford people are basing theirs on … “I like him. Hence he is perfect and great. Now everyone shut up.”

      • Notcleverguy

        Or the ever popular, ” what about the gas plant scandal?” defense, because everyone knows that it is OK to be a terrible municipal politician and human being if things don’t run perfectly at other levels of government.

        • OgtheDim

          Or the “Just wait until Chow is in charge and the trough is back out again” defence.

          Because, you know, its ok to waste taxpayer’s money now because the evil Satan is rising soon to take over the city.

    • http://www.metamorphostuff.com/ Ryan Day

      They’re not really opposed at all: The Ombudsman report says Jones broke the rules; Rob Ford responded by saying he didn’t care about the rules, and it’s okay if Jones broke them because he’s done other stuff that’s good.

      Ford didn’t even attempt to rebut the report; he just filed it under “stuff I don’t care about.”

      • mixandserve

        Sigh…

      • bobloblawbloblawblah

        ” he just filed it under “stuff I don’t care about.”

        That’s where we’ll file Ford after October 27th, 2014.

        • https://paul.kishimoto.name/ Paul Kishimoto

          Seriously. Let’s not talk about him anymore, why not? He’s history.

          A more current danger is that the councillors quoted with him in this article backing Jones or attacking the ombudsman might escape a reckoning for their alignment with Ford, and win re-election.

          • bobloblawbloblawblah

            Certainly Mammoliti will. He’s always been a bit of a nutbar and it’s never stopped him from being re-elected.

    • mixandserve

      Funny that we haven’t heard from TheSquatSez.

      Oh that’s right, because he’s too chickenshit to chime-in when there’s airtight critique of his bosslords.

    • spicygarage

      Both could be true; Jones could have effected positive changes at TCHC _and_ disobeyed tons of rules. Some councillors’ support dis not automatically disprove the allegations in the report.

      • Queen of Kickbacks

        The positive testimonials coming from TCHC residents are instructive. When the guy gets involved with their problem, it gets solved. Sound familiar? Of course, for the CEO of a city agency (or, for that matter, of the city) to spend so much time on front-line service delivery is far from the best use of resources. I also call into question the credibility of those councillors who have thrown their support behind him.

        • tomwest

          Of course it gets fixed if the CEO gets involved – but that’s not scalable to 160,000+ residents. Further, there are other (cheaper) staff at TCHC who have the job of fixing these issues. The CEO is wasting his time and our money if he is.

        • torontothegreat

          While I don’t agree with Rob Ford or Gene Jones, I also don’t agree with that analysis. TCHC has longstanding and terrible issues with front-line service delivery, this is indisputable. Any good CEO should tackle these problems leading by example.

          With that being said, if a CEO is unable to change the system by his leadership and finds themselves staying on the front-lines well after mandated milestones are continually not met – then he’s being ineffective and his strategy should be called into question.

  • lorax1284

    Not knowing the rules has be Rob Fords defense time and time again: he’s demonstrated that if you get into power, if you actively avoid coming into contact with information about the rules, you claim ‘plausible deniability’ about conflicts of interest etc. and get away with it.

    Why apply a different standard to this tool?

    • https://paul.kishimoto.name/ Paul Kishimoto

      Ford was elected. In theory, because an elected official has a mandate from voters, (s)he has considerable latitude—for instance, to pass legislation that makes previously illegal things, legal, or vice versa.

      Jones is a public employee.

      • lorax1284

        I’m certainly not (seriously) suggesting that violation of rules be disregarded: it’s the “ignorance of the law IS an excuse” modus operandi that Rob Ford has employed to great effect seems to be in play here: it’s one thing for an elected official to change the rules to favour himself, but it’s another to willfully avoid knowing about the existing rules, violate them, then claim ignorance of the rules as a defense and get off scott free. It hasn’t worked for Ford 100% of the time, but he’s used it 100% of the time.

        Oh, and lying. Don’t forget lying.

        • https://paul.kishimoto.name/ Paul Kishimoto

          Right, I’m not condoning their behaviour, either.

          I’m just saying that the “will-of-the-people” dynamic is one reason why some people may give Ford more latitude, for certain things, than Jones. Jones can’t claim, “The people of Toronto elected me to _____ and support me when I _____,” because they didn’t.

  • https://paul.kishimoto.name/ Paul Kishimoto

    Palacio, Nunziata and Mammoliti are to Crean as Poilievre is to Mayrand.

    Compare: http://www.thestar.com/news/queenspark/2014/03/06/wynne_seeks_distance_from_scandals_with_accountability_law.html

    Given a choice between (a) attacks on the persons and offices of independent ombudsmen and auditors, and (b) offering them new powers and implying that that somehow exonerates past wrongs which they had no power to investigate, I’ll take neither. The former, though, is far less defensible.

  • Notcleverguy

    Ford also called for Crean to resign after the report came out, big shocker there.
    So the liar who claims to be all about accountability want’s anyone who’s job it is to make people accountable resign when they find him or his cronies less than accountable.
    What a disingenuous piece of human scum.

    • rich1299

      Isn’t “increased accountability” part of Ford re-election campaign? Much like the Harper Cons who promised increased transparency and accountability but instead delivered the polar opposite.

      Neither of the Ford brothers has been at all accountable for their actions or spending. Rob seems to think saying he’s sorry is what being held accountable means, accepting the consequences of misbeahviour are for other people.

      The twin mayors have never submitted an accurate accounting of their office expenses as is required of all city politicians. Doug has refused to do so while Rob gave such a low ball account of his office expenses the only way it could possibly be true was if he was paying his office staff a tiny fraction of minimum wage or most of them were working for free.

      They’ve claimed they’ve been using their own money to pay for office expenses so don’t need to account for it to the city but even if that were true why hide it? How can we know that developers, lobbyists, or gangsters aren’t paying for their office expenses instead? We can’t know since they refuse to produce an accurate accounting.

      • poniesinjudah

        Really? WTF? Are there no rules at all?!?!?! How can they not file these office expenses or do bogus ones and not get busted? What is supposed to be happening with enforcement of those rules that isn’t? I thought I knew all the horrible Ford stuff. And it is SO MUCH not just him. But a culture of letting things slide at TO city hall. And that won’t leave in October. Zug.

      • Notcleverguy

        Rich, it is exactly this that makes me cringe everytime one of the Bozo brothers opens their mouths and talks about accountability, trust or anything to do with fiscal responsibility.

  • Dinah Might

    Mayor Rob Ford: “I don’t know why we’re paying millions and millions of dollars to all of these accountability officers.”

    In the very same sentence, he demands officers to be held accountable, and also rejects the means for holding officers accountable. The VERY SAME SENTENCE.

    • bobloblawbloblawblah

      This is the same guy who wanted a Parks employee fired for putting his head down on his desk while working. It seems only the little guys need be held accountable. Ford and his buddies? They get a pass every time.

      • Notcleverguy

        With Ford as “mayor” I feel we need far more accountability officers.

        • poniesinjudah

          Yeah, following him around with a net.

    • AboveTheCity

      If you actually listen, carefully, painful as it is, to Rob Ford, when he’s speaking like this, it’s absolute incoherence. Indeed, he regularly contradicts himself in one conversation, and even in the same sentence!

      It extends to his behavior and actions – while he SAYS, he’s for the little guy, the average guy, whatever that means, in almost every vote on legislation in Toronto, he’s making life harder and more challenging for those same people!!

      That Ford supporters can’t see any of this, is extraordinary!

      • dsmithhfx

        “That Ford supporters can’t see any of this, is extraordinary!”

        If only that were true. :’(

    • spicygarage

      Ah, Ford Nation. The jokes write themselves.

  • OgtheDim

    You know, it is possible to be an effective CEO while following standard HR practices.

    A few thousand people a year kinda prove that…..

    • Notcleverguy

      When confronted with these protocol offenses, Jones kept answering with “That decision was my prerogative”, I kid you not.
      Nothing like using the Bobby Brown defense.

      • spicygarage

        Bobby Brown defense, eh? I guess that’s why Ford feels such kinship with Jones…

      • poniesinjudah

        Justin Bieber, less articulately did too about his body guard beating up somebody. “me discipline him?” and he laughed.

      • Queen of Kickbacks

        “That decision was my prerogative,” Jones replied, adding, “And don’t be cruel.”

  • OgtheDim

    IIRC, only Mammo, Crisanti and the Ford’s have publicly expressed dislike/disdain for Crean.

    Not sure an anti-Ombud vote is going to go anywhere.

    • rich1299

      plus Palacio and Nunziata, though they could be included under the Fords quite easily. I’m sure the main reason they’re still supporting him is because he was Ford’s pick for the job, admitting he’s not working out would also bring Ford’s judgement into question, yet again. Though by this time Ford’s support of the wrong person for the job is so miniscule in comparison to all of Ford’s other problems.

      I’m unsure what the board of the TCHC will do but I’ve little doubt city council will be calling for Jones to be fired. Its not clear why he was hired in the first place besides being supported by the Fords and supporters. Shortly after he was hired he was asked how many tenants the TCHC had and he replied he had no idea. You’d think someone applying to be the CEO of a very large affordable housing corporation would know how many tenants there were before the interview. If not then very quickly after getting the job but Jones never bothered to find out. From what little I’ve read about the report not knowing was a hallmark of his on the job performance.

  • OgtheDim

    I would be very surprised if Mammo is not voted back in.

    The dynamics of his ward are very much based on voting for the same Italian name every 4 years and then forgetting about them for the rest of the time.

    If renters actually voted in numbers, Mamo, Judy Sgro, Mario Sergio & Peruzza would have issues fighting off people beyond their own personal gadflys (Peter Li Preti)

    • vampchick21

      I’m just looking at the list of registered candidates for the 2014 election and Mamo hasn’t registered yet.

      Fingers crossed!

      • Notcleverguy

        Mammo is also under investigation by the integrity officer for fraudulent campaign funding, if found guilty he will be prohibited from running under the Toronto election act, (if only smoking crack and hanging around gun running gangs were covered too)

        So it’s no wonder in his also very mature way bad mouths the people who’s job it is to investigate these matters.

        • poniesinjudah

          Re if only crack and gangs covered too. Covered like insurance. “Oh dang! We didn’t get the policy that bars politicians from running for street crime!”
          “Dagnabit! we were sure fundraising crime would be enough.”

      • Queen of Kickbacks

        He’ll be there. Where else has Councillor Schleprock got to go?

  • Torontonianist

    The Ford’s and their allies are responding as they always do, attack the source. They have refuted her report, they’ve just said that Jones has done a good job and why do we need an Ombudsman any way.

  • Alex2

    I read somewhere that Mammolitti has 2 family members on the TCHC payroll. Donno