Alok Mukherjee is a distinguished visiting professor at Ryerson University, and the co-author of Excessive Force: Toronto’s Fight to Reform City Policing. He was chair of the Toronto Police Services Board from 2005 to 2015.
The request by Toronto police Superintendent Ron Taverner, chosen to be the next Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner, to delay his swearing-in until the air had been cleared around the selection process, clears the ground to investigate the complaint by Deputy Commissioner Brad Blair.
What are the questions for this inquiry?
As chair of the Toronto Police Services Board, I was involved in the hiring of two police chiefs and numerous deputy chiefs for Canada’s largest municipal police force with a staff and budget only a little less than that of the OPP. Odgers Berndtson, the executive search firm involved in the OPP Commissioner’s selection, assisted us in searches for both chiefs and at least half a dozen deputy chiefs.
Looking at what transpired with the OPP position from that vantage point, several questions arise, beginning with the job call.
The Ontario government has admitted that it changed qualification requirements two days after the original posting. Sylvia Jones, the minister responsible, claimed that this was done to broaden the applicant pool. Premier Doug Ford said that Odgers Berndtson recommended the change. A spokesperson for the firm declined to comment to The Globe and Mail owing to confidentiality.
This is most unusual. Much thought, consultation and deliberation go into preparing a job call, especially for such a critical position. Who was involved in the conversation? Did Ms. Jones’s human-resources people provide expert advice?
Sometimes a job call is reissued with revised qualifications. This normally happens after the initial call has run its course and the response is unsatisfactory. How was it decided a mere two days after the position was posted that this job call had limited the applicant pool? Who made that decision? According to reports, the original call had elicited more than two dozen applications. And what was the exact role of Odgers Berndtson?
The specialized services of a firm such as Odgers are retained for specific purposes, all with the client’s direction and approval: to prepare an information package to advertise the position and, using its database, seek out potential candidates; to conduct preliminary screening and propose a long list; to assist in developing an interview process; and to facilitate the final decision. During its numerous engagements with the Toronto Police Services Board, the firm did not play any determinative role in that decision, though its representative offered feedback as an observer.
Decisions are made by the employer.
Mr. Ford has created much confusion about the role of Odgers in the selection process with his statements. This is a matter that cries for examination.
The interviews themselves are also an issue. The interview panel seems to have changed from one round to the next. The Premier’s Chief of Staff, Dean French, was initially a member and then withdrew. In what other parts of the process up to that point was he involved? Did he consult with, take direction from and provide regular updates to the Premier?
And what about the newly minted Deputy Minister, Mario Di Tommaso? He assumed his position only a few days before participating in the final round of interviews.
Who besides Mr. French and head of Ontario public service, Steve Orsini, participated in the process before Mr. Di Tommaso? What information was provided to help Mr. Di Tommaso take part in the final round?
But more importantly, did Mr. Di Tommaso obtain any legal advice about any potential conflict of interest on his part? He had been a colleague of Supt. Taverner as a superintendent and his junior in terms of years of service at the Toronto police. Later, promoted to staff superintendent, he became Supt. Taverner’s direct boss.
Then there is the final decision which is mired in much confusion. Appointing Supt. Taverner was solely and exclusively for the cabinet to decide based on recommendations of the interview panel comprised of Mr. Di Tommaso and Mr. Orsini.
On Nov. 28, reporters were expecting a decision at the full regular cabinet meeting. After the meeting, when asked by reporters, Ms. Jones said that no decision had been made.
Then on Nov. 29 the Order in Council, a public document, came out stating that the decision was “approved and ordered” on that date.
So what day was the decision made? And more importantly who was present to make that decision?
These queries need to be answered.
Which brings up the last question: the role of Mr. Ford.
He has insisted that he had absolutely nothing to do with Supt. Taverner’s selection. But two facts are well established.
He has not denied his close personal friendship with Supt. Taverner. And he has admitted his participation in the only decision that mattered, namely Supt. Taverner’s appointment by the cabinet.
Mr. Ford’s direct or indirect role at several points in the recruitment, selection and appointment process must be reviewed.
There is a smell permeating the manner in which Supt. Taverner was chosen to be the next head of one of the country’s most important police forces.
A narrow, limited review by the Integrity Commissioner will not remove it. A full inquiry will.