Skip to main content

Eugene Jones, the president and CEO of Toronto Community Housing, and Bud Purves, chairman of TCHC, at a board meeting at the TCHC offices on Feb. 6, 2013.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

The leaders of Canada's largest social housing agency treated it as their "personal fiefdom," hiring and firing staff without regard for the rules, Toronto's ombudsman says. But Toronto Mayor Rob Ford dismissed the findings, saying he backs Toronto Community Housing Corporation CEO Eugene Jones "100 per cent."

The mayor's comments come after months of criticism over Mr. Jones's leadership, and as the agency struggles to reduce a $2.6-billion repair backlog. A report Tuesday from Ombudsman Fiona Crean accuses Mr. Jones – the man tasked with turning the organization around – of an "abject failure of leadership." It also raises questions about the role of the board, saying it "became the senior executives' rubber stamp."

The mayor, who has made improvements at TCHC a key part of his re-election platform, was quick to defend Mr. Jones. "Toronto Community Housing was a mess for years, and he came in and he cleaned house," he said.

Story continues below advertisement

The mayor also suggested that Ms. Crean may have overstepped her bounds. "It definitely looks like it's gone a little bit more over the top than I think her jurisdiction allows her to."

Ms. Crean's investigation followed complaints from former employees who reported inconsistent compensation, improper hiring and unexplained firings after Mr. Jones's arrival 18 months ago.

Her investigation found recruitment ran "amuck." The CFO applied for his job while still a member of the board and used as a reference for that job someone he later hired to be his assistant, it says.

The report also found that Mr. Jones increased his assistant's salary to that of a manager's, while creating an exception to also allow her to receive overtime pay. Mr. Jones gave another employee a 33-per-cent raise and new job title without explanation.

Mr. Jones was not available for comment, but was present at a closed-door meeting of the agency's board Tuesday, which included a presentation from Ms. Crean.

Chair Bud Purves said the board reached no decision and will continue discussions Friday morning.

Others were quick to make the connection between Mr. Jones's alleged flouting of the rules and the mayor's own behaviour.

Story continues below advertisement

"Somewhere, he's got the impression that he didn't need to follow the rules," Councillor Paula Fletcher said of Mr. Jones.

"And we know one person around here who says he doesn't need to follow the rules, so I hope the mayor hasn't given him that impression that you don't need to follow the rules in Toronto."

Ms. Crean outlined many instances of senior employees being promoted or hired without competition, and found a turnover rate of 67 per cent among the agency's 347 managers and non-union staff‎ during the period covered by her study.

The report also found that 45 workers were fired in that period – 41 of them "without cause."

Partly because of this, TCHC paid about $1.6-million in severance in 2013 – a more than 160-per-cent increase from approximately $600,000 in 2009.

But the mayor, who frequently rails against spending, shrugged it off, calling the costs "short-term pain for long-term gain. I've seen the gain at Toronto Community Housing."

Story continues below advertisement

Ms. Crean says that managers at TCHC responded "wholly and professionally" to her investigation, "with one notable exception." Ms. Crean wrote that she was "perplexed" by Mr. Jones's demeanour when he appeared not to have read her report thoroughly, and for delegating responsibility to others.

In February, Mr. Jones was stripped of his bonus and ordered to take leadership training after an investigation into two personnel-related issues. And earlier this week, The Globe reported that the housing corporation was facing a wrongful-dismissal lawsuit after a former employee was fired in late 2013. The lawsuit has been settled for an undisclosed amount.

But Mr. Jones has other supporters besides the mayor, too.

Bonnie Booth, a TCHC tenant for 32 years, said the agency's new CEO has made changes that were needed. "Mr. Jones has done a lot of good things and he's given us the impression that we're valued and he listens to us," she said.

And Councillor Cesar Palacio, a member of the TCHC board, said he has been "bombarded" with calls from tenants praising Mr. Jones and suggesting there has been "pushback" from staff unhappy with the changes.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter