The man in charge of organizing the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto has been turfed just a year and a half before the Games and three months after an expenses scandal. The Pan Am board ousted CEO Ian Troop on Friday, and will replace him with top civil servant Saad Rafi.
Board chair David Peterson said Mr. Troop’s axing had nothing to do with the expenses, which saw executives ding taxpayers for things such as $1.89 teas at Starbucks.
Rather, Mr. Peterson said, the board decided Mr. Rafi was the “right guy” for the final stage of the Games. He said venue-building is on time and on budget, and the organization is thinking about the “operating” stage, planning how the Games will be run.
“It is normal in Games of this size to go through evolution of people. You know, it would be surprising if there wasn’t,” he said in an interview.
“We’ve got an awful lot of good things here and our job is to light it up and make it perfect. And that’s what we’re trying to do.”
One source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there had been a clash of personalities between Mr. Troop and Mr. Peterson, the former Ontario premier, who took over the board in September. Mr. Peterson denied this version of events.
This is the second government agency dismissal this week: on Tuesday, Ontario Power Generation fired three top executives after an audit revealed generous, taxpayer-funded pensions, big bonuses and high salaries at the electricity company.
Mr. Peterson said Mr. Troop’s severance is still being negotiated. A Pan Am spokesman refused to release his contract, which contains severance provisions. Mr. Troop was paid $477,259 last year and $552,065 in 2011. He had also been in line for a retention bonus if he had stayed in his job until the end of the Games.
Mr. Peterson said Mr. Troop’s firing had been in the works for “a few days” before the board finalized its decision.
Pan Am organizers were in hot water in September after the Toronto Sun detailed their use of government expense accounts. One executive charged $27,305.62 to move from Vancouver to Toronto, the paper wrote. Mr. Troop, meanwhile, expensed a 91-cent parking fee.
Premier Kathleen Wynne called these expenses “ridiculous” and examples of “entitlement” at the time. Michael Chan, the minister responsible, ordered that expense policies be tightened.
He said Friday that the situation has been remedied.
“I think we passed that hurdle a few months ago,” he said. “We corrected those situations. We were open, we were transparent, accountable.”
Mr. Chan said officials from his ministry “may [have] conferred” with the board over Mr. Troop, but that he did not know he would be given the boot until Friday.
Mr. Rafi, the province’s deputy health minister, will take over early next year. Mr. Peterson will fill in in the interim.
Progressive Conservative MPP Rod Jackson said Mr. Troop should have been shown the door sooner.
“This guy obviously didn’t have a grip on what was going on at the Pan Am Games,” he said.
“It’s clear that he was part of the problem. To move him out now is good, but it would have been nicer three months ago when we knew [the expenses scandal] was in full flight.”
New Democrat Paul Miller said it is the Liberals’ fault for allowing the expenses problems to happen.
“Ontario families are feeling squeezed like never before and every day they hear of another public sector CEO or Liberal insider getting rich on the public dime,” he said in a statement.
A spokesman for Toronto Mayor Rob Ford said Friday that Mr. Ford has contacted Mr. Rafi to seek a meeting. He said Mr. Ford “would like to see the Games succeed,” but has concerns.
With a report from Ann Hui