Toronto Community Housing CEO fired after investigation into contract
After controversy surrounding the procurement of a contract, the board of Toronto Community Housing has fired CEO Kathy Milsom, effective immediately.
Milsom was placed on administrative leave back in December while a third-party review was conducted into her involvement in the hiring of management consultant agency Orchange. An unnamed employee who oversaw the request was also placed on leave at the time.
The contract with Orchange was part of an effort to reorganize the public housing agency.
In a statement on Thursday, the TCHC board said the review had concluded that Milsom’s “conduct throughout this process did not meet the high standard” set by the corporation.
“This conduct included overseeing an RFP process that did not comply with the procedures and protocols expected of a public procurement process,” the statement continued, “and failing to fully cooperate with the investigation that led to this independent report.”
Kevin Marshman, who is the current board chair, will replace Milsom fulltime, starting on April 3. Marshman had previously held the role on a temporary basis back in 2017, following the abrupt resignation of then-CEO Greg Spearn. Milsom then took over for Marshman in August 2017.
Vice President Sheila Penny, who assumed the role when Milsom was placed on leave, will carry on as CEO until then.
“Going forward, job number one remains to continue to change the culture at TCH to better the lives of our tenants,” the statement said. “We are squarely focused on their needs and on implementing an aggressive building repair program to improve their homes and communities.”
Speaking to CTV News Toronto, Marshman said Milsom’s removal is “disappointing” but necessary.
He said TCH has a “robust” set of guidelines on procuring contracts that, according to the review, were clearly not followed.
“Presented with the facts, the board felt that this was the right decision we needed to make to ensure the integrity of the company going forward,” he said.
“Clearly as this matter is an HR matter and subject to some ongoing potential court action, I’m somewhat restricted in what I can say. What I can say is that the process did not ensure there was a fair and equitable consideration of all participants that submitted bids on this particular contact and as a result of that we did not have a fair and effective reward.”
Among his top priorities when he takes over – continuing the capital repair program, advancing the “culture change” amid TCH, enhancing customer services and ensuring better responsiveness to tenant needs.
“Our tenants are telling us that they are seeing improvements in our buildings,” he said.
“We still have a ways to go. I wouldn’t suggest that there isn’t more improvements to be made, but we are making progress.”
Milsom previously served as the president and CEO of the Technical Standards and Safety Authority and the Canada Lands Company. She has also sat on several boards, including the Greater Toronto Airport Authority.
The housing agency has had four CEOs over the past eight years.
Toronto mayor John Tory called ousting an “unfortunate incident” but expressed confidence in the appointment of Marshman. He said Marshman’s long-term experience with the housing company will be valuable in the ongoing revitalization work.
“I am hearted that Marshman, who has been the chair, who has actually also been the acting CEO, is willing to step forward and do this job for a period of time because I think he represents stability and continuity, but I also think he will do a good job to maintain the high standards we expect,” Tory said at an unrelated news conference Thursday.
The mayor said a report by the city manager on the efficiency of improvements being made to the company, laid out in a 2016 task force report led by Senator Art Eggleton, is “forthcoming very soon.”
Tory believes Marshman has the same determination to “speed up the pace of change” as he does.
“I was frustrated at the fact that the change that we agreed upon in the wake of the report written by Eggleton wasn’t happening faster, and that’s why we asked the city manager to write a report,” he said. “I think Kevin Marshman is on side with that, I think the board is on side with that, I think we have some city councillors over there who are people that understand that that change must be made faster.”
Deputy Mayor Ana Bailão, chair of the planning and housing committee, expressed similar sentiments.
“Obviously it’s disappointing but what we want to make sure is the corporation is in good standing and stable and that we’re here to continue our investment in our community and our tenants and the city is very much supportive of the TCHC leadership team and the staff to continue doing that,” she told CTV News Toronto.
“Because the city has actually brought Toronto Community Housing so much closer to us – if you look at the relationship between TCHC and City of Toronto 7 or 8 years ago, it is not the same as it is today. We have a very close relationship now and I think we’ll get closer as we implement Tenants First.”