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QUOTED: Rob Ford, on the loss of his favourite TCHC executive ever

(Image: Christopher Drost)

(Image: Christopher Drost)

“It’s like taking a world championship team and saying, you know, get rid of the whole team because one fan said you have a bad team. And unfortunately that fan is [Toronto ombudsman] Fiona Crean.”

Rob Ford, proving that no political situation is too complex to reduce to a sports metaphor. In the days since Toronto’s ombudsman released her damaging report on hiring and firing practices at the Toronto Community Housing Corporation under now-former CEO (and Ford ally) Gene Jones, Ford has repeatedly tried to discredit her, at one point suggesting that her office be eliminated.

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Gene Jones is out as CEO of the Toronto Community Housing Corporation

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At a press conference this afternoon following a closed-door board meeting, Toronto Community Housing Corporation board chair Bud Purves made the announcement politics-watchers have been anticipating for a week: Gene Jones is out as CEO of the corporation, after less than two years on the job.

Purves’s way of describing the board’s decision was self-consciously neutral. “After much deliberation,” he said, “the board and Gene have decided that a change in leadership is the best position for Toronto Community Housing to move forward and implement its strategic plan.” The reality, of course, is that this parting of ways is no more mutual than any sudden breakup.

Jones’s problems began months ago when stories of an unusual number of hirings and firings at TCHC began to leak into the press. In February, the board docked his bonus and ordered him into leadership training. The real impetus for today’s board decision, though, was Tuesday’s ombudsman’s report, which documents a pattern of harmful disregard for TCHC human-resources policy under Jones’s leadership.

Jones’s reign began in 2012. He was brought in as a replacement for TCHC’s previous CEO, Keiko Nakamura. She was purged during the blowback from a spending scandal that occurred early in Rob Ford’s mayoralty. Ford has claimed Jones’s eventual appointment as a political achievement. The “accomplishments” section of RobFordMayor.ca boasts that the mayor personally “renewed public faith in TCHC.”

Ford held a press conference yesterday at which he defended Jones. This dismissal doesn’t reflect well on either man.

UPDATE: Greg Spearn, a TCHC real-estate executive, has been named as Jones’s interim replacement.

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Four things we learned from the city ombudsman’s scathing report on staffing practices at TCHC

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City ombudsman Fiona Crean’s much-anticipated report on hiring practices at the Toronto Community Housing Corporation, released this morning, is perhaps not quite as damning as promised. Even so, it contains quite a bit of evidence of mismanagement at the corporation’s highest levels. Crean herself puts it best, on page 67: “It is an alarming tale of senior executives ignoring policy and running an organization as though it were their own personal fiefdom.”

The target of the majority of Crean’s criticism is Gene Jones, a Detroit import who started as TCHC’s CEO in mid-2012, in the chaotic aftermath of Rob Ford’s purge of the corporation’s leadership. Jones was supposed to put the troubled organization on better financial footing. At last check, he still enjoyed the mayor’s unqualified support (for what that’s worth, these days), but he’s going to have a lot to answer for once the rest of city council is done absorbing these findings. TCHC has already preemptively docked his bonus.

Many of the liberties Jones is accused of taking would be acceptable at a private company. With taxpayer dollars involved, though, there’s an expectation that things will be done in accordance with clear, consistent policy. Crean’s report makes it obvious that such attention to the rules has been lacking at TCHC, at least since the start of Jones’s tenure.

Here are four things we learned from the report.

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Mark your calendars: TCHC’s next major scandal is scheduled for Tuesday

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The Toronto Community Housing Corporation has gone nearly a year without a headline-grabbing scandal, but the Star says that streak is about to end. The city’s ombudsman is planning to release a report on the social housing provider on Tuesday, and its contents are expected to threaten TCHC CEO Gene Jones’s job.

According to the Star, the report will cover hiring, firing and promotion practices under Jones’s leadership. It’s not clear what, exactly, the ombudsman’s office found during its investigation, but the Star‘s sources say there are several allegations of improprieties at TCHC’s highest levels. We already know that Jones has fired a lot of people.

Jones was previously a housing director in Detroit; he came to Toronto in mid-2012. If he loses his job, TCHC will have to install its fourth CEO since the start of Rob Ford’s mayoralty. That’s a direct result of one of Ford’s first acts as mayor: a clean-sweep of TCHC’s board and leadership, following an auditor’s report that found the corporation had spent money on things like staff christmas parties, and that it had failed to follow competitive procurement practices. To this day, Ford touts the TCHC purge, and Jones’ hiring, as one of his key accomplishments. Whether he’ll still be able to do that after Tuesday remains to be seen.

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Reaction Roundup: who’s to blame for the Scarborough shooting and what should be done

Police Chief Bill Blair briefs the media (Image: Gang Investigators)

Already unnerved by two brazen public shootings this summer, the city is now grappling with the Scarborough shooting that ended the lives of 14-year-old Shyanne Charles and 23-year-old Joshua Yasay and wounded more than 20 others. We’ve pulled together the main threads of discussion playing out in the media, including what Rob Ford plans to do about gangs in Toronto, and what changes are ahead for residents in community housing.

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The TCHC still has high executive turnover (but at least it’s voluntary this time)

(Image: Toronto Community Housing)

Though TTC theatrics are hogging the spotlight today, there’s also some drama to report at the Toronto Community Housing Corporation: chief financial officer Len Koroneos quit abruptly earlier this month after being passed over for the chief executive gig in favour of Detroit’s Gene Jones. Koroneos started as CFO in September 2010 and was named interim CEO six months later when Rob Ford purged the board; he’s miffed because he felt he was doing everything right, and yet the top job went to someone else. Councillor Paula Fletcher believes his departure adds to the gaps in the TCHC’s leadership (its chief development officer, chief administrative officer and general counsel all previously opted to leave), and says that the new board has less housing knowledge than the one forced out by Ford. However, Jones seemed unbothered by the chatter—we imagine someone used to middle-of-the-night drug raids would be pretty unflappable. [Toronto Star]

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Gene Jones, the new TCHC boss, used to go on nighttime drug raids

(Image: Toronto Community Housing)

The Toronto Community Housing Corporation has been muddling along without a permanent CEO since Keiko Nakamura was fired last year, but the scandal-ridden agency has finally found its guy. And he sounds pretty awesome. Not only does American Gene Jones sport a cool moustache, he has also cleaned up several troubled social housing agencies across the U.S., most recently the Detroit Housing Commission. And, in a Q&A with the Toronto Star, Jones explained that, when he was director of the Indianapolis Housing Agency, he’d suit up in a flak jacket and accompany police on middle-of-the-night drug raids to experience a neighbourhood’s crime dynamic firsthand. Even the $750-million repair backlog and mass firings at the TCHC don’t faze him. Jones told the Globe and Mail that the shenanigans outlined in the Auditor General’s reports were “typical” in the U.S., “so there’s nothing here that they’ve done that I haven’t seen being done.”

TCHC reaches across border to pick a new CEO [Toronto Star]
New public housing boss readies himself to clean up after turbulent year [Globe and Mail]