Upheaval at TCHC troubling

By Patrick Hunter Wednesday February 19 2014 in Opinion
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There is something about official communications that you probably already know but it is worth a reminder every now and then. Official statements, particularly when they deal with a controversial subject, are designed to provide the most positive information about the problem without falsifying the status. To put it another way, and using the old clichés: You are getting the tip of the iceberg; there is more than meets the eye – you get the picture.


The results of the latest probe into the practices of Toronto Community Housing’s chief executive officer, Gene Jones, have been made public by the board. Actually, the statement does not go into the findings of wrongdoing. It only outlines the sanctions against Jones. One therefore has to conclude that, based on those sanctions, there were wrongdoings.


Let me back up a bit. Last week, I discussed the fact that the board had ordered a review of the management practices of the CEO, following revelations that the chief operating officer had been fired or resigned after only a few months on the job. This action was taken without consultation with the board. The Chair of the Board called in an outside law firm to investigate the matter and report back. They have, and so the board issued a statement outlining the sanctions it is taking.


The official statement reads, in part: “The board received the report and reviewed the findings that the CEO in these matters failed to exercise proper management oversight and follow board processes and procedures.”


There are about seven items on the sanctions list, and I will not repeat them all. However, a few of the key ones are: That the CEO would not be eligible for a bonus; an executive coach will be hired to work with the CEO, and the CEO should attend a university executive leadership program.


So, one can impute from this that some of Jones’ management practices were, shall we say, found wanting.


It does beg the question: what were the conditions in place to assess the performance of the CEO and other executives in the running of the corporation. One of the conditions going forward is the “development of a comprehensive performance management plan that links 50 per cent of the CEO’s bonus to organizational excellence related to improvement in managerial style and performance.” What is the other 50 per cent related to?


To be sure, one of the reasons behind performance reviews, at any level, is to ensure that the employee not only has the right tools and supports to achieve the goals desired, but also the ability to do the job. So, the new conditions announced can be seen in that light – providing the tools that were absent to ensure that Jones can do his job effectively.


But here is an interesting related matter: A Toronto Star report last Friday noted that the TCHC “paid severance to 26 employees it fired without cause in 2013, Jones’s [sic] first full year.” That, says the Star, is up 160 per cent from 2009 and 30 per cent from 2011. We discussed some of the staff changes at TCHC last year when wholesale changes were happening among senior management people at an alarming rate. So, is the CEO getting a better deal than he provided for others?


But, as I noted last week, there is another shoe set to drop. Fiona Crean, the City Ombudsman, is also looking into the matter of the termination of employees at TCHC. Organizations have a way of hiding behind the cloak of privacy in personnel matters, so we may never get the full story about the dismissals. It may be that Crean’s report, when it is published, would have general statements about the dismissals. Hopefully it will provide more details on the wrongdoings than were evident in the board’s statement.


I don’t want to leave the impression that I am picking on Jones. Well, I am, I suppose, but it is out of concern for the residents of the affordable housing conclaves. Large organizations, particularly in the public and broader public sectors, do have people on staff who should not be there, whether due to their treatment of their clients or other nefarious elements of their tenure. But, at the same time, there are good people who know their job and are caring and respectful of their clientele. They have an understanding of the problems their clients face – the lack of, or ill-repairs of residences – and work to manage these problems. But there is also an understanding, in some cases, of the social challenges that residents face and the need to integrate an agenda that recognizes these difficulties and work to alleviate them.


It is, in part, this aspect of the TCHC that concerns me. With all the changes at the top, is this a forerunner to adapting changes that reduces the attention to social and community challenges?


In a column in March of last year, I quoted a Globe and Mail story about the re-written strategic plan under the one-man caretaker, Case Oates. That plan stated: “Fundamentally, TCHC should be a landlord. That’s it. Our staff started becoming involved in social services…”


Is this what is happening?


The current mission statement: “… is to provide affordable housing, connect tenants to services and opportunities, and work together to build healthy communities.”


I would like to think that this repudiates Oates point of view.



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