The purge, under pressure from the mayor's office, of anyone associated with the findings of two auditor's reports on sloppy procurement practices and questionable expenses at the city's social-housing corporation has reached its most senior person yet with the departure of Build Toronto's chief operating officer, Derek Ballantyne.
Mr. Ballantyne was CEO of the Toronto Community Housing Corporation from 2002 to 2009. Hours after auditor-general Jeff Griffiths published reports on Feb. 28 that slammed spending practices at Canada's biggest landlord, Mayor Rob Ford vowed to "deal with" Mr. Ballantyne as soon as possible.
Mr. Ballantyne is leaving Build Toronto, an arms-length city body responsible for developing and selling surplus city land, on "mutually agreed terms in accordance with his employment contract," according to a statement released by the agency's board of directors on Friday. Build Toronto would not release the conditions of Mr. Ballantyne's departure, citing employment contract confidentiality.
"The board of directors of Build Toronto has determined that the recent allegations set out in the Auditor General's report regarding Toronto Community Housing Corp. make it impossible for him to continue to perform his duties for Build Toronto, whose sole shareholder is the City of Toronto. Build Toronto has to move forward with its multiple plans to assist the City of Toronto in unlocking the value in land assets in service to the city," the statement read.
"Build Toronto thanks Derek for his contribution to the start-up of Build Toronto. The board of directors and staff wish him well in the pursuit of new challenges. Build Toronto will not be offering any further public comment on this matter."
Mr. Ballantyne's departure comes days after Mr. Ford successfully routed what remained of the housing corporation's board of directors - two councillors and two tenant representatives. Its seven citizen members and two councillors resigned last week.
Mr. Ford has repeatedly called for the housing corporation's CEO, Keiko Nakamura, to step down. Ms. Nakamura has refused. Retired councillor and Ford ally Case Ootes, who will act as a stand-in director until a new board is formed, will have the power to replace Ms. Nakamura, but said on Thursday he hasn't decided whether he will.
Councillor Doug Ford, the mayor's brother and a member of Build Toronto's board, said he thinks Mr. Ballantyne's departure was "the right decision. … It was a unanimous decision, and we've just got to move forward now.
"It would be very difficult to deal within the city after these scandalous reports had come out."
He wouldn't reveal the "mutually agreed terms" under which Mr. Ballantyne is leaving the organization. "I can't comment on that. That's with our lawyers."
Mr. Ballantyne was awarded the 2009 Jane Jacobs award for his work to transform the city's decrepit social-housing stock, and he's been credited with spearheading revitalization models for Regent Park and other sprawling complexes the city is trying to turn into mixed-income neighbourhoods.
"The redevelopment of social housing … that was Derek," said councillor Paula Fletcher, who worked with Mr. Ballantyne during her tenure on the TCHC's board. She added that razing the leadership of arms-length organizations goes beyond the scope of the auditor's report.
"The auditor's report says, 'This is terrible,' but the auditor never said, 'Get rid of everybody.'"