Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) CEO Gene Jones resigned from his position on April 25, becoming the latest leader of the troubled organization to go in the midst of a scandal.
Jones was under scrutiny for the second time in 2014, for allegedly failing to follow basic human resource practices and properly manage the agency, which provides 58,000 residences to low-income families in need.
Toronto’s ombudsman Fiona Crean filed a 111-page report earlier in the week condemning Jones for his improper hiring and firing tactics, and for not recognizing conflicts of interest.
TCHC board chair Bud Purves told reporters at a press conference that Jones’ stepping down was a mutual decision, and identified TCHC’s senior real estate executive, Greg Spearn, as his interim replacement.
“After much deliberation, the board and Gene have mutually decided that a change in leadership will best position Toronto Community Housing to move forward in implementing its strategic plan,” Purves said.
Jones’ resignation from THCH also came with $200,000 in severance.
Crean’s report condemned Jones for many things, among them the “abject failure of leadership” and for unjustly firing and promoting several individuals, including the termination of 41 people without cause. The report also cited that of the 233 staffing changes, only 119 had records. In one instance, an executive assistant was hired and promoted to a senior position within six months, along with a $30,000 raise.
One prominent Toronto figure to stand unflinchingly behind Jones is Mayor Rob Ford. The Toronto Star reported that Ford vowed to get Jones back in as CEO should he win re-election.
Heading up Canada’ largest landlord
Eugene Jones came to Toronto in 2012 by way of Detroit. He was brought in after previous CEO Keiko Nakamura resigned in the wake of another controversy. Audits exposed lavish staff spending and questionable procurement practices.
At the time, the TCHC board searched across Canada, the United States and even through Britain for the right candidate, but it was Jones who stood out.
The former executive director of the Detroit Housing Commission was given the job based on his vast experience in the public housing sector. He had previously helped turn around other troubled agencies in cities including Indianapolis, Kansas City and San Francisco.
Though Jones has yet to speak out about his resignation, many of his community housing residents have stepped up to defend his unorthodox ways, describing him as a hands-on, straight-shooting individual who frequently made visits to the buildings and personally saw to it that repairs were made.
Erin Ruddy is the editor of Canadian Apartment Magazine.