Ombudsman says Ford's office interfered with civic appointments

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford



TORONTO - The city's ombudsman has accused the mayor's office of meddling with civic appointments, including asking staffers to rush the hiring process and even once asking for the removal of a line from an ad that called for applicants from Toronto's "diverse communities."

Fiona Crean's new report concludes the city's public appointments policy wasn't followed and was plagued by interference from Mayor Rob Ford's office.

"The failure to (follow the city council-approved policy) was both unreasonable and wrong," Crean states in her report, released Thursday.

Coun. Adam Vaughan was quick to call for new councillors to be placed on council's civic appointments committee.
"This is one of the saddest things I've ever seen written about the City of Toronto," Vaughan said.

He accused "someone in the mayor's office" of actively trying to undermine the city's efforts to be an equal opportunity employer.

"When you don't have an open and fair hiring process and it comes down to who you know and credentials aren't properly represented and conflicts aren't properly reported out, it smacks of cronyism," Vaughan said. "It means they are handing out jobs not just to people connected to certain ways of thinking, but they are just not placing an emphasis on qualifications."

In a press release, Crean said the problems she found in the process used to recruit and select board members for the city's agencies, boards and commissions should concern the public.

She said the mayor's office pushed city staff to speed up the appointment process and ignored their objections to an accelerated schedule.

"It will look to cynics as if the fix is already in for appointments and the process is just for show," staff wrote in an e-mail. "We now have a governance process that is no longer based on any recognizable principles."

Crean said staff felt they couldn't say no to the mayor's office.

"Staff felt they could not refuse the directions given to them by the mayor's office," she wrote.

Crean said on one occasion staff reported they were asked to remove a statement from a draft newspaper ad that encouraged those from the city's "diverse communities" to apply.

"They did not," Crean writes.

The report also notes two staff members were given specific direction not to place any ads in the Toronto Star. The mayor's office denies any such direction was given.

"Staff were directed by the mayor's office to place the ad in the National Post and the Toronto Sun," Crean writes.

The mayor's office has yet to respond to the report.

Toronto Sun publisher Mike Power said at no time did anyone from the newspaper discuss advertising with Rob Ford, his office or any other politician at the city.

"The Sun did win a sealed, competitive tender for the city's statutory advertising business," Power said.

However, that tender was submitted prior to the 2010 municipal election that saw Ford elected as mayor and was awarded before he took office, Power said. The ombudsman didn'tn contact the Sun to raise any issues or concerns about city advertising in the paper.

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