Eugene Jones’ controversy-filled tenure as Toronto’s housing boss is over after the Toronto Community Housing pushed him out their CEO after a scathing ombudsman’s report described a number of broken rules and an “abject failure of leadership” under Jones.
Following more than three hours of deliberations behind closed doors, TCHC chair Bud Purves announced Jones’ departure, triggering pandemonium in the board room as tenants heckled and booed, shouting “you fool” and “Judas.”
Purves said Mr. Jones resigned and he received a $200,000 settlement, but a spokeswoman for the TCHC said Mr. Jones left by “mutual agreement.”
The board has named Greg Spearn, the vice president and chief development officer, as interim president and CEO. A special committee from the board has been tasked to assist him.
Mayor Rob Ford, who arrived as the board was wrapping up its private session, was livid. He called Mr. Jones the best CEO the TCHC ever had.
“This is one of the worst days, one of the worst days, Toronto’s history, losing a man of this calibre,” said Mayor Ford.
He said he called up as many board members as he could last night and tried to convince them to keep Mr. Jones in his post. He vowed to bring him back if he is re-elected. “And you want to clean house? We’re going to see what cleaning house is all about. I’m sick and tired of it. I’ve seen it at city all. Every time you try to do better, it’s a cult of corruption and it’s impossible to break sometimes,” he said. Mayor Ford said he was also upset with Purves, the chair he backed.
Purves got an earful from one tenant, who angrily ridiculed him inches from his face as reporters tried to ask him questions.
“Both Gene and the board agreed it’s time to move forward with a new form of leadership,” said Purves, as a tenant angrily ridiculed him to his face. “We’ve heard from hundreds of tenants and we’re going to deliver quality and better service,” he said. “He did a good job when he came in here and it’s time to move forward.”
Other board members were largely tight-lipped. Councillor Frances Nunziata said she was “disappointed.” Councillor Ana Bailao said it was a “difficult decision but we need to have the organization moving forward, and we felt it was the best decision to have the organization moving forward.” Councillor Maria Augimeri called it a “sad day for Toronto.”
Important to remember that CEO Jones does not disagree with any of the stories in the report. Still does not. Agreed to step down. #TOpoli—
Shelley Carroll (@shelleycarroll) April 25, 2014
“This board needs to be disbanded, they didn’t even listen to the residents, they didn’t listen to deposition,” said resident Cathy Birch. She accused the ombudsman of having an “agenda” and lacing her report with “malice.” Although supporters of Mr. Jones were in the majority at the meeting, at least one tenant thought he should go. “As tenants, our buildings are unsafe, they’re filled with crack dealers. They’ve spent millions buying new vehicles… and these guys drive around in cars smoking cigarettes. When you call them, they say get a life,” said John Brochet, a downtown tenant for 15 years.
Crean said there was a “climate of fear” at the TCHC under Jones in her report and that the housing corporation paid $1.6-million in severance last year.
“This is the shocking story about the abject failure of leadership from the top. The CEO set the tone, describing his every move as ‘his prerogative’. Poor management followed, ignoring rules, flouting process, abrogating fundamental principles,” Crean wrote in her report.
Jones defended his actions to the ombudsman, arguing that TCHC was “in chaos” when he took over, and “I needed staff, I didn’t have any staff — no one to trust — and I had to put people into positions so I could move the agency over.”
Rob Ford’s housing boss, Eugene Jones, out after scathing ombudsman report