Mayor Rob Ford expressed outrage over Gene Jones’ departure as head of Toronto Community Housing (TCH) on Friday, calling it “political” and “one of the worst days in Toronto’s history.”
In a heated news conference on Friday, Ford said the decision — which the TCH board said was mutual — was disappointing for tenants. He promised to hire Jones back if reelected in October and suggested violence could result from the change in leadership.
“You had the worst shootings in Danzig in the summer. Hopefully it won’t — I’ll do everything in my power to control it — but this could get out of control this summer,” Ford said.
“Who are we gonna put in? Who are we gonna put in now going into an election?”
The announcement itself was met with jeers and boos, with one woman in the crowd yelling, “Judas! Judas!” at board chair Bud Purves.
The board had just met behind closed doors to discuss a scathing report by city ombudsman Fiona Crean, which was released earlier this week.
Crean said senior executives, including Jones, repeatedly broke the rules when hiring and promoting employees. There were also allegations of conflict of interest, Crean said. For example, a senior staffer who never applied for a vice-president position was put in the job without an interview, four days before the posting closed.
The ombudsman made 12 recommendations in her report, which have been accepted by the TCH board.
Jones had been hand-picked by Ford to oversee the TCH after a spending scandal but then faced his own investigation, including the allegations of improper hiring.
“Was reorganization needed? Yes. Was new leadership needed? Yes. Was there any reason to not follow the rules? No,” Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly said on Friday.
“The important thing right now is to stabilize the situation and to provide the leadership style that will protect the interests of the residents.”
Coun. Karen Stintz, who is also running for mayor, said she welcomed Jones’ resignation.
In a statement, Stintz said the ombudsman’s report indicated an “alarming lack of leadership by the [TCH's] former CEO and his number one supporter, Mayor Rob Ford.”
Other mayoral candidates waded in too. John Tory, who is a former Rogers Media CEO, described the TCH fiasco as another example of “Ford chaos,” saying “Mr. Jones broke many rules, many times and suffered the same fate most other people would suffer if they did that where they work.”
Olivia Chow said in a statement that she welcomed the leadership change at TCH and hoped it wasn’t the only one this year.
The TCH oversees approximately 117,000 residents in 58,500 households across Toronto. It is the largest landlord in Canada.