Ombudsman Fiona Crean launched an investigation of HR practices at the Toronto Community Housing Corp. last summer following several complaints from former and current employees.

These employees alleged improper hiring and promotions as well as unfair firings at the country’s largest public housing agency.

In her report, Crean said the problems began in June 2012 with the arrival of new CEO Eugene Jones who was given a mandate to make changes and move the agency forward.

In the first four months of his tenure, there were 96 new staff hires, including a new CFO, chief development officer and vice-president of human resources. There were no records of competitions held in 19 per cent of those external hires.

There were also 76 promotions, of which only 36 of them were posted in accordance with TCHC policy. There were no competitions held in seven promotions and TCHC couldn’t find any information demonstrating competitions were held for the remaining 33 promotions.

The hiring, promotion and termination processes created chaos with some senior staff breaking TCHC HR policies and practices, Crean concluded.

Crean also found that hiring managers and members of interview panels ignored declaring conflict of interests in at least four hiring decisions and that employees were fired and promoted to positions for which no job descriptions existed.

Eighty-eight people left TCHC, of which 45 were terminated, 32 resigned and 11 retired.

The performance reviews in many cases of those who were terminated didn’t indicate any problems with the quality of their work. But the blanket dismissals created “a climate of fear” and had a “destabilizing effect” on the organization, Crean found.

Crean also said there were different salary levels for similar positions and that only 14 per cent of 81 new job hires between July 2012 and October 2012 went through the job evaluation process.

5 case stories

Jones promoted his executive assistant to executive assistant to the CEO and board chair which was done without holding a job competition. The EA’s salary was raised to a management level category and wouldn’t be eligible for paid overtime. But the EA demanded that she be considered an exempt employee instead of management so she could be eligible for paid overtime.

Jones directed that the EA be paid as management and continue to get paid overtime. However, the VP of HR said “there would be hell to pay” if her salary made it to the sunshine list.

Jones also hired a former city councillor EA who was looking for a new job but no posting was held even though it was required that all open positions be advertised. He said “[It’s] my prerogative  when I want to give that position to the best person with experience, internally or externally….”

Jones promoted that manager to senior director with a $30,000 raise less than six months later.

There was also no job posting when Jones appointed the then director of labour relations to interim vice-president of human resources and then made it permanent a month later.

A search for the position of vice-president of asset management was held but four days before the competition closed, the interim vice-president of facities management was selected for the job even though he didn’t apply or was interviewed for it.

In Crean’s fifth case study, the vice-president of HR had worked with a lawyer at a previous job and suggested she consider applying for the position of director of labour relations which was offered to her after she submitted a resume and had a meeting.

Below are other key report findings:

•    TCHC didn’t follow its own HR policies.
•    CEO and other officers weren’t familiar with their obligations regarding recruitment.
•    The CEO believed that his actions were of his own prerogative and that it was the vice-president of HR’s responsibility for knowing the rules.
•    Open competitions weren’t held for a number of hires and promotions.
•    Methods of hires were often unfair and lacked transparency.
•    Recruitment process requirements were often ignored.
•    Hiring panels were abandoned and replaced with one-on-one interviews.
•    Some wage levels were arbitrarily determined.

Click here to read the full report.