Toronto Community Housing under fire for HR practices: Reports

Toronto ombudsman says senior execs repeatedly broke recruitment rules

Senior management at Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) repeatedly broke the organization’s recruitment rules, according to a report by City of Toronto ombudsman Fiona Crean.

Some of the senior executives did not know their obligations in regards to recruitment, found the report Unrule(y) Behaviour, released Tuesday.

“The pattern was set at the top by the CEO, who felt that TCH’s human resource policies did not apply to him. Others took their cue,” said Crean.

“The CEO believed it was his prerogative to do as he wanted and that he had no responsibility for knowing the rules. He felt that was the responsibility of his VP Human Resources, who often didn’t know the rules either.”

Incidents highlighted in the report include:

• One day after being appointed, the CEO promoted a director to become the interim vice-president, human resources. No resumes or applications were reviewed, no candidates interviewed. One month later, the acting assignment was made permanent, again without a competition. The promotion never went to the Board for approval.

• The CEO hired a new vice-president four days before the competition closed. When asked if this prevented other qualified candidates from applying, the CEO replied “No. Absolutely not.”

• In another case, the CEO hired a manager, promoted her six months later to a senior director with a $30,000 raise, without a process, job description, job evaluation or competition.

• The CEO put his executive assistant into a management-level category allowing her to claim paid overtime, something not permitted by the rules.

• Changes to employment contracts altered fundamental terms of employment for non-union staff, and eliminated long-held common law rights to notice and severance pay. The policy change was made without proper approvals and inadequate notice to staff.

• Senior executives failed to declare a conflict of interest when hiring people they knew personally.

During the 18 months after CEO Gene Jones arrived, 88 staff left the organization — most of them involuntarily — and 96 new staff were hired, said the report.

“All these changes created chaos, and left TCH without the necessary skills and adequate institutional memory,” said Crean.

"What began in 2012 as a culture of indifference became one of blame. The most fundamental rule has been to always be fair, equitable and transparent. In the midst of trying to change the TCH, this key promise to employees was grievously violated."

Crean made 12 recommendations, including that the TCHC comply with its own HR policies, and train senior executives around them. The recommendations have been accepted by the TCHC board.

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