Ombudsman blasts TCH boss Gene Jones on hiring practices

The board of directors of Toronto Community Housing says it needs more time to study a damning report filed today by the city's ombudsman on the hiring practices of CEO Gene Jones.

'Abject failure of leadership' at social housing corporation, ombudsman says

RAW: Fiona Crean's TCH report

9 years ago
Duration 8:26
The ombudsman released a report about the HR practices of the Toronto Community Housing Corp.

The board of directors of Toronto Community Housing says it needs more time to study a damning report filed today by the city's ombudsman on the hiring practices of CEO Gene Jones. 

TCH CEO Gene Jones is under fire for alleged improper hiring and promoting, and ignoring conflicts of interest.
Bud Purves, chairman of the social housing corporation, said following a meeting Tuesday afternoon that the TCH board will reconvene on Friday. 

"More time is needed to further study," the report, Purves said at a news conference, adding the board takes the matter "very seriously." He left without taking questions. 

The 111-page report by city ombudsman Fiona Crean says there has been an "abject failure of leadership" at TCH, which provides about 58,000 low-income residences around the city. 

“The rules were completely ignored and that’s not acceptable in a public service organization ... A huge amount of experience was cast aside."

The report summarizes the findings of an investigation into TCH management which began in August 2013. It accuses Jones of improper hiring and promoting, ignoring conflicts of interest and describes a flood of internal complaints and poor record keeping of much of the human resources files.

She claimed all the rapid changes at TCH created a "climate of fear.” 

Some examples from the report include: 

  • In 19 per cent of external hires, there was no competition or records kept.
  • There were at least four instances of conflict of interest in hiring.
  • In 40 of 76 promotions, there was no posting or competition.
  • In the 41 TCH employees fired without cause, many had not had performance reviews indicating any poor performance.
  • 67 per cent turnover in management and non-union employees, of which there are 347. 
  • In one instance, an executive assistant was hired and less than 6 months later was promoted to an executive position with $30,000 raise (33 per cent increase), no job description and no authorization from board of directors.
  • Crean believes information was missing from management reports given to the board.
  • There were instances of inconsistent compensation, with some workers making substantially more than others for the same role. In another instance, managers received a pay increase of 12 per cent without any job evaluation, and another 10 per cent only months later.
  • Only two of 30 external hires the ombudsman looked at had met reference check requirements. More than half of those external hires had no records of any reference checks.
  • Some candidates did not meet minimum requirements for promotion, but were put through the hiring process anyway.
  • Of the 233 staffing changes the ombudsman looked at, only 119 had records. And almost all of those were incomplete.

Crean initiated the investigation after receiving complaints about hiring and promotion practices at TCH since Jones took over the embattled corporation two years ago.

Crean made 12 recommendations to the TCH board and CEO, which she says have all been accepted.

Ford supports Jones

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford said he continues to support Jones, telling reporters Tuesday he's done a "great job" at TCH. 

"There are two sides to every story and I'm waiting to hear from Eugene," Ford said. "I want to hear his side of the story."

It is not the first time Jones’ leadership has come under scrutiny, nor the first Ford has stood by him. 

Earlier this year, a private law firm probing allegations of misconduct at TCH found that Jones had failed to exercise proper management oversight and ignored certain standardized board procedures.

Following the results of that investigation, Jones lost a possible bonus of a reported $50,000 and was forced to take leadership training courses. But Jones kept his job at TCH. Ford said then Jones had done a "phenomenal job" at TCH. 

Read the full report below.