Torontoist’s David Hains was one of many, many people to report on today’s report on alleged misconduct at the Toronto Community Housing Corporation, charged with overseeing the city’s public housing. Its head, Gene Jones, comes under particular fire.
Is anyone surprised that Mayor Rob Ford is Jones’ most prominent backer in the face of damning criticism?
Today, the ombudsman released a damning report about human resources practices at the Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC)—one that could lead to the dismissal of CEO Gene Jones at an emergency board meeting being held this afternoon. In the report, ombudsman Fiona Crean suggests the work culture at TCHC is governed by a “climate of fear” and finds that repeated HR violations committed by Jones and a handful of other senior executives have created a “destabilizing effect” on the organization.
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Crean characterizes her findings as “a shocking story about the abject failure of leadership from the top.”
The report contains a number of recommendations: the organization, for example, should comply with its own policies and procedures, and train members of the board of directors and those with hiring power about those policies.
Such suggestions might seem to reflect only basic common sense, but at least one high-level TCHC executive expressed doubts about the utility of the organization’s guidelines. Anand Maharaj, vice-president of human resources, told the ombudsman’s office the HR policy framework was “outdated” and suggested HR hiring policies were something of a hindrance[.]
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Gene Jones himself apparently doesn’t feel it’s important for a CEO to familiarize himself with an organization’s policies. The ombudsman’s report notes that “the CEO believed that his actions were his prerogative and that he had no responsibility for knowing the rules because it was the responsibility of his VP of HR to ensure that they were followed.”
The relevant rules were not followed, the report indicates, when Jones hired the former executive assistant of a councillor without posting or holding a competition for the position. Lisa-Joan Overholt, former EA to Vincent Crisanti (Ward 1, Etobicoke North) and a volunteer for Rob Ford’s mayoral 2010 campaign, was taken on as a manager—six months later, Overholt was promoted to a senior director position and given a $30,000 raise. When the ombudsman asked Overholt and Jones to provide a job description of her role, they could not do so. Another employee, Graham Leah, was appointed to be TCHC’s interim vice-president of asset management, a position for which he had not even applied.
And the HR irregularities also extend to firings: the ombudsman found that between June 2012 and October 2013, there’d been 41 terminations without cause, including 15 at the director level and 14 involving people with more than 10 years’ experience. “Terminations often seemed poorly planned, even impulsive,” Crean observes, “and conducted without regard for the knowledge gaps they created.” Since Jones joined the TCHC, there have been at least four COOs; three have been fired.
Karen von Hahn‘s Toronto Star article criticizing vintage men’s clothing store Stollerys, located squarely on the southwest corner of Yonge and Bloor, for a slew of missed opportunities is sadly on target.
The store has received only two stars out of a possible five on Yelp, many of the commenters singling out service as an issue.
For a local landmark that is hardly a discount store (Stollerys stocks and sells quite pricey, suppliers-to-Her-Majesty type goods such as Barbour jackets, Daks and Aquascutum raincoats, Viyella shirts, socks by Pantherella and Derek Rose silk pyjamas) it is hard to fathom a window display in 2014 featuring men’s slacks on torso-less mannequins shod only in dirty beige socks, and topped with cashmere sweaters in place of heads. Or dress shirts stapled to pale wood Grand & Toy wall dividers adorned with cut-out squares of coloured bristol board, as if from a science project made by a child in Grade 5 some years ago.
In fact, the windows look a lot like those of Honest Ed’s, except that Honest Ed’s sells jackets for $14.99, not two-ply cashmeres for hundreds of dollars.
As a proud supporter of small independent and local retail (heaven knows this is an ever-shrinking category given the pressures of advancing global retail chains and shrinking margins), I have nonetheless made an effort to pop into Stollerys on occasion, comparison shopping for, say, a “good” men’s overcoat, or in search of a father’s day gift.
On one of these occasions, I bumped directly into an exiting Lloyd Robertson, former news anchor at CTV. Two thoughts immediately came to mind: first that he looks a lot taller on television; and then, I guess that’s who shops here, men whose job is to look reliably inoffensive, like news anchors.
While I wish I could say that once you get inside the store things look a lot better, this is not the case.
The first thing that greets you by the entrance is the kind of pants press they have in the closets of mid-level motels. Said press is at the landing of some really ugly ’80s Victorian pine stairs. In front of the stairs is a modular arrangement of scuffed Lucite cubbies jammed with cellophane-wrapped dress shirts. On the wall behind this ragged display hangs a rainbow of solid satin ties in disturbingly bright colours.