Much of the debate at Wednesday night’s meeting focused on the appointment of retired city councillor Case Ootes to run TCHC until a new board is elected.
Ootes, who retired from council last year, served as former mayor Mel Lastman’s deputy and ran Ford’s post-election transition team.
Some council members were upset that a Ford backer would be temporarily awarded the power of the now-dissolved 13-member board.
Coun. Adam Vaughan asked how much Ootes would be paid.
“He’s already receiving severance pay from the city, so he’s double-dipping,” Vaughan told CBC News. “So here’s somebody that’s a friend of the mayor, who the mayor will have direct control over, and tenants have been shut out of the process.”
Ford defended his move to appoint Ootes, and said the former council member deserves compensation for his time.
“People work and they deserve a paycheque, just like everyone here,” Ford told members of the media. “You all get paycheques, we get paycheques. You don’t ask people to do something for free. It’s a very important role [Ootes] has taken. I’m glad that we’re restoring the confidence.”
The city manager will determine Ootes’ salary.
After a week of political wrangling, the board of the Toronto Community Housing Corporation is officially gone.
A motion to oust the remaining four board members passed 25-18 at a special city council meeting that stretched late into Wednesday night.
After six hours of debate, council voted to support Mayor Rob Ford’s motion to dismiss the four remaining members of the board who refused to follow the mayor’s recommendation and resign in the wake of a damning report from the city’s auditor general.
Nine other board members resigned last week.
Jeffrey Griffiths, the city’s auditor general, released a report on Feb. 28 that revealed TCHC awarded a three-year, $25-million refurbishment contract after receiving an unsolicited proposal and another $5-million contract that did not have appropriate documentation and appeared to be sole-sourced.
The report also detailed staff at the city-run housing agency expensed cruises, massages and Christmas parties exceeding $40,000.
“I’m very happy,” said Ford after the meeting. “This is the first step we’ve taken to restore confidence back in Toronto Community Housing.”
At times the marathon meeting verged on the ridiculous.
Councillors tried to discuss dumping the board but were not allowed to talk about the auditor’s reports, because they have not yet come before council.
“As egregious as some of those things were that we heard about, it just seems so obvious that if we can’t even speak about that thing that I can’t speak about,” said Coun. Josh Matlow.
Former city councillor Case Ootes will now be in sole control of the board, possibly for several months, something that doesn’t sit well with Coun. Glenn De Baeremaeker and other council members (see sidebar).
“One man should not decide who should be fired and how a city or corporation should run. It’s not working in Tunisia, it’s not working in Egypt, in Libya and it won’t work in Toronto.”
As managing director, Ootes will have the power to fire TCHC CEO Keiko Nakamura who last week refused the mayor’s request to resign.
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