Mayor Rob Ford says “millions of dollars” are involved in the latest scandal at Toronto’s social housing agency, where five staff have been fired over allegations they falsified documents.
The dismissals involve employees of a now-defunct subsidiary of Toronto Community Housing, a for-profit venture called Housing Services Inc. Staff of the subsidiary are accused of altering expense reports to show work done for Ottawa Community Housing was actually for repairs to a TCH property at 200 Wellesley St. E. after a fire in 2010.
Details of the case have been handed over to the police.
“I don’t like to see anybody get fired, but at the end of the day, if they’re guilty, I don’t want people like that working for the city,” Mr. Ford told reporters on Wednesday.
TCHC head Gene Jones – hired more than a year ago to turn the troubled housing agency around – said action was taken based on the findings of an independent forensic investigation.
“The investigation found evidence of wrongdoing by several employees. The findings are serious,” Mr. Jones said.
He did not give details of the alleged wrongdoing or what other disciplinary measures were taken.
Mr. Ford said the dismissals show action is being taken to remedy corruption within the agency.
“Millions of dollars … There were some major problems,” he said when asked about the scope of the case.
The major fire at the Wellesley Street high rise caused more than $1-million in damage and displaced 1,200 residents. Earlier this year, 600 tenants who suffered injuries and property damage from the fire were awarded a $4.85-million compensation as the result of a class-action lawsuit against TCHC.
Councillor Ana Bailao, a TCHC board member, said she was not surprised to hear of the firings, adding Mr. Jones’s actions demonstrate the seriousness of the findings.
“It was a very high possibility [there would be firings]. We knew something was wrong and we had to address the issue,” Ms. Bailao said.
Councillor Maria Augimeri said news of the investigation shows there is a new level of transparency at the agency. “It’s a sign that we are dead serious about ferreting out past wrongdoing,” she said.
The announcement is the latest controversy to shake the cash-strapped agency. Mr. Ford cleaned house at TCHC early in his term after an audit uncovered questionable spending, including luxury gifts for employees and staff retreats and parties.
Kaleigh Rogers is a freelance writer