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Ford accuses ombudsman of leading a 'witch hunt' against head of TCHC

Rob Ford, is puled aside by his nephew Michael, as supporters line-up to meet him at Ford's mayoral campaign kick-off at the Toronto Congress Centre in Toronto Thursday, April 17, 2014.

Darren Calabrese/The Globe and Mail

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford accused the city's ombudsman of leading a "witch hunt" against the head of Toronto Community Housing Corporation, the day after she released a scathing report criticizing the organization's top leadership.

Senior managers at TCHC refused to respond Wednesday to Ombudsman Fiona Crean's report accusing CEO Eugene Jones of "an abject failure of leadership," but it appeared the report hadn't led to any immediate changes. The agency's spokeswoman said that Mr. Jones was in his office working Wednesday, and that there had been no staffing changes since the report's release.

The mayor was quick to defend Mr. Jones – whose turnaround of the TCHC he has made a key part of his re-election efforts – and instead pointed the finger at Ms. Crean.

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"I think this is a witch hunt," Mr. Ford told reporters at City Hall. "It bothers me that someone's getting singled out like this."

Ms. Crean responded by calling the mayor's comments "unfortunate," saying the investigation and resulting report "was no different than any other report I've done in the five years I've served as the city's ombudsman. The process is exactly the same as any other case. This is not a witch hunt."

Ms. Crean said her investigation involved interviews with more than 60 witnesses, and came after her office received complaints about the TCHC from more than 20 past and current employees. The report accuses senior managers at TCHC of ignoring rules to hire and fire employees at their own whim – leading to a 67-per-cent turnover among managers and non-union staff since Mr. Jones' arrival in 2012.

According to the report, employees were promoted or hired often without any official job posting or interview.

In one example, Jennifer Bond was hired in December, 2012, as the organization's director of labour relations without a formal interview. The job description required a minimum of 10 years experience with at least five years as a manager. But Ms. Bond, who TCHC's vice-president of human resources Anand Maharaj knew from a previous job, was the chosen candidate despite having only graduated from law school three years prior, according to her LinkedIn profile – and no management experience.

Another incident highlighted in the report was the selection of former TCHC board member Jason Gorel as CFO. According to the report, Mr. Gorel had not yet recused himself from the board before expressing his interest in the job, and one of his references for the position was a person he later hired to be his own executive assistant.

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