The involvement of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s office in the appointment of civic board members compromised city staff’s ability to carry out that process, says the city ombudsman.
Fiona Crean said in a report released Thursday that the mayor’s office pushed in the summer of 2011 to accelerate the process of appointing members to the city’s agencies, boards and commission by two months, something that staff noted at the time was "something new."
"Because of the accelerated schedule and the lack of resources, staff’s abilities to carry out their responsibilities under the [public appointments policy] were compromised," said the report.
"Staff did not have the required time or resources to screen applicants and prepare qualification summaries."
Because of the shortened timelines, the integrity of the civic appointments committee, a group of councillors that has the final say on these appointments, was "open to perceptions that selections were done in an arbitrary manner, instead of one based on merit," Crean found.
The mayor’s office also provided "detailed direction" on advertising encouraging people to apply for the vacant positions, staff told the ombudsman.
Staff also reported that the mayor’s office asked them to remove language that encouraged members of the "city’s diverse population to apply." But staff refused that request.
When asked by a reporter on Thursday if his office had asked for the language about diverse applicants to be removed, Ford said, "No, that’s never happened, no."
The mayor’s office also specifically requested that no advertisements be placed in the Toronto Star, staff said. When staff countered that the Star has a diverse readership and a large circulation, the mayor’s staff said "we do not like The Star," said the report.
The report is the latest blow in a string of controversies that the mayor has had to deal with in recent weeks, ranging from criticism over his use of city resources to help administer the football teams he runs to a legal challenge over conflict of interest rules he is alleged to have broken that could ultimately result in him being removed from office.