Case Ootes got the call from Mayor Rob Ford right after the auditor-general released his report into misspent cash and shoddy procurement practices at the Toronto Community Housing Corporation almost two weeks ago.
Could Mr. Ootes helm the housing corporation - Canada's biggest landlord - until his administration could appoint new leadership to the embattled public-housing agency?
Mr. Ootes will officially step into that role on Monday. "[The mayor's]pitch was that I was a good guy to do the job," he said. "I'm looking forward to the challenge."
But he swears he can't answer the most pressing questions: Whether he'll fire CEO Keiko Nakamura, who refused Mr. Ford's request to resign last week; and how much the city is paying him to take charge for three months.
As a proxy for the now-defunct board, and until the city appoints a new one, Mr. Ootes is the only person who has the power to fire Ms. Nakamura, who took over at the TCHC in early 2010.
While Mr. Ford has called for her resignation, several others - including Councillor John Parker, the mayor's former designate on the board - have vouched for her performance. Mr. Ootes said he'll make a decision over the next two weeks.
Twice during Wednesday's fractious late-night debate, the mayor's political opponents attempted to derail plans to pay Mr. Ootes to run the housing corporation. Twice they were defeated.
Mr. Ootes said he has no idea how much he'll actually be paid. "It hasn't been decided yet. As soon as it's decided, I will make that public," he said. "I expect it'll be a monthly rate. … I was asked by the mayor to do the job. I don't have to do the job. I want to do the job. And the housing corporation will compensate me in a reasonable way for my efforts."
His next priority will be implementing recommendations from the audit the TCHC has said it's already working on.
But he'll also be in charge when other impending issues come before the housing corporation - including forthcoming developments in Lawrence Heights and, later, Alexandra Park. Both of these social-housing complexes are slated for some form of revitalization, a partnership with private developers in the same vein as Regent Park.
"My decision will be based on what makes sense for the Toronto Housing Corporation, how it best serves the tenants, how it best serves the taxpayers of the city," he said. "I'm not going to comment on those at this point."
Mr. Ootes would not comment on musings from the mayor and his brother, Councillor Doug Ford, that they'd like to see the TCHC restructured. Both Ford brothers have said they prefer a model of private landlords with rent subsidies coming from the government, but they've demurred recently when asked whether they have concrete plans to pursue that goal.
Mr. Ootes, a veteran councillor and former deputy mayor, has voiced opinions on the city's social-housing stock before. In 2007, he sharply criticized the TCHC's hundreds of single-family houses, many of them in pricier neighbourhoods.
"It seems to me it's not a very effective way of spending our very limited social housing money," he said at the time, arguing that the city should look into selling three homes valued at $500,000 each but thought to be worth more than that in a hot housing market.
But now, Mr. Ootes said he will try to leave any sweeping structural changes to the new board.
Councillor Shelley Carroll, who opposed Mr. Ootes's appointment but managed to pass a motion giving him formal marching orders, said she hopes he'll be kept too occupied trying to implement the auditor's report to do anything more drastic.
"That will keep him busy," she said. "I think everyone can take a breath now."