Manager ignored conflict of interest policy when he recommended companion’s company to do photographic work for project consultant
A project manager for the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) has been fired for hiring his girlfriend as a photographer, a breach of the organization’s conflict of interest policy.
John Cursio was hired by the TTC in the spring of 2008 to oversee part of its Transit City project. The project involves the construction of new rapid transit lines in various locations around Toronto.
As the Transit City project geared up for construction, the TTC hired consultant AECOM Canada to design three buildings to house new transit vehicles. As the project manager, Cursio approved AECOM’s sub-consultants and invoices for the $8 million job.
Cursio recommended a photography company, West Point Photography, for AECOM to hire as a sub-consultant. West Point was hired and its owner, Robin Thoen, took photographs at public meetings discussing the project as well as sites were new rapid transit lines were to be constructed. She was paid $50,000 over a year.
However, what the married Cursio didn’t reveal was that Thoen was his longtime girlfriend. Cursio’s daughter also once worked at West Point as a photo editor. There was no formal contract between AECON and West Point, just payments for her work, which AECON included as part of its invoices and Cursio approved.
When an investigation by the Toronto Star revealed the relationship, the TTC looked into the matter itself, since the organization had a strong policy dealing with conflicts of interest. As a result, the TTC decided to fire Cursio for not revealing his conflict of interest and asked AECOM to stop using Thoen’s company. It is also reviewing other invoices Cursio looked after during his time as a project manager.
The TTC plans to strengthen its conflict of interest policy in the aftermath of Cursio’s dealings. Though employees who are in a conflict of interest, particularly when hiring consultants, are supposed to declare it and remove themselves from the situation, the policy doesn’t really address staff recommending sub-consultants to its consultants.