Mayor Rob Ford is calling on the board of the Toronto Community Housing Corp. to keep embattled chief executive officer Eugene Jones in his job, saying he has made “a huge difference” at the organization.
Mr. Jones’s leadership over the country’s largest social housing provider is at stake ahead of a closed-door session of the TCHC board Friday morning.
A report this week from the city’s ombudsman accused him of hiring and firing staff without regard for the rules. In response, the mayor – an ardent supporter of the CEO – vowed to attend Friday’s meeting to defend Mr. Jones, and described the ombudsman’s report as “a witch hunt.”
“I want the board and [chair] Bud Purves to keep Eugene Jones tomorrow,” the mayor told reporters at City Hall on Thursday afternoon. The mayor has been a supporter of Mr. Jones since his arrival in 2012, and has made the CEO’s work at the TCHC a key part of his re-election campaign.
“Eugene Jones was asked to clear up the mess. He did exactly what he was told to do.”
The mayor added that he plans on attending Friday’s TCHC board meeting, despite not having a seat on the board.
Mr. Ford’s designate on the TCHC board is Councillor Maria Augimeri. Because her appointment was approved by city council, the mayor cannot vote in her place unless approved by council.
City of Toronto Ombudsman Fiona Crean’s report Tuesday accused Mr. Jones and senior managers of running TCHC like it were “their own personal fiefdom.”
The report – the result of a months-long investigation by the ombudsman’s office – outlines several instances where employees were fired without cause, or hired without proper interviews or job postings.
As a result, TCHC saw a 67-per-cent turnover at the organization, Ms. Crean said this week, and paid $1.6-million in severance costs for 2013 alone.
But the mayor defended Mr. Jones’s actions, saying they were necessary to get rid of “overspending, ineffective operations and a culture of entitlement” at the organization.
“He is bringing people on board who see the work that needs to be done,” Mr. Ford said.
“They’re getting it done right. They’re on the job for the right reasons.”
Even before the release of the ombudsman’s report this week, Mr. Jones’s leadership at TCHC was under scrutiny.
In February, his bonus was stripped and he was ordered to take leadership training as the result of an investigation into two personnel-related issues.