When the top job with the Ontario Provincial Police was posted in October, Ron Taverner couldn’t apply, because his rank was too low.
Two days later, the job requirements were changed — paving the way for the Ford family friend to apply.
He got the job.
The job postings were obtained exclusively by iPolitics late Monday evening.
The first job description was posted to the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police website in October and — according to a search of the document’s web history — was last modified on Oct. 22.
That posting required all applicants to hold, at minimum, the rank of deputy chief or assistant commissioner.
The candidate should have a “track record and demonstrated ability to provide executive leadership in a complex policing organization at the rank of Deputy Police Chief or higher, or Assistant Commissioner or higher in a major police service,” read the posting.
Taverner, a superintendent with the Toronto Police Service, sits two ranks below that threshold.
Two days later, a document entitled “OPP Commissioner Updated” was modified on the association’s site. The only difference between that posting and the first is that the minimum-rank requirements were removed.
The candidate should have a “track record and demonstrated ability to provide executive leadership in a complex policing organization,” read the new posting.
The change made Taverner eligible to apply for the job, which he was ultimately awarded on Nov. 29.
Sal Badali of Odgers Berndtson, the head hunting agency that “supported” the commissioner selection process, said “eliminating the rank requirement was done to broaden the potential pool of applicants.”
“It turned out that over half the pool of applicants were not at the Deputy Chief level,” Badali said over email.
The premier’s office refused comment on the matter when reached by iPolitics, saying the selection process was managed by the “public service in its entirety.” The commissioner’s job is an Order-in-Council appointment, meaning it must be approved by provincial cabinet.
The premier’s office said requests for comment about Taverner’s appointment should be directed to the cabinet office, which reports to the premier. A request to explain who asked for the change in job requirements was not returned by deadline.
Taverner’s appointment — announced late Thursday — immediately raised eyebrows.
“The fix was in from Day 1,” former OPP commissioner Chris Lewis told CP24 on Thursday.
“The decision’s the premier’s,” Lewis said. “There’s old relationships there; we all know it, and I think it was a travesty that this occurred.
“And I don’t want to show any disrespect to Ron Taverner. He got the job, good for him. I don’t think it’s good for the OPP, and I don’t think it was a good decision on the part of government whatsoever.”
The opposition seized on the appointment during question period Monday, calling on the Progressive Conservatives to explain how Taverner was chosen.
“The choice was made by an independent commissioner, and it was approved by cabinet on Thursday,” Community Safety Minister Sylvia Jones said in response.
That wasn’t good enough for NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, who told reporters early Monday that she thinks Lewis’s concerns are legitimate.
“Come clean and outline — particularly and specifically — what the process was,” Horwath said. “Let’s figure out why the process left us with a candidate that leaves so many people scratching their heads.”
Taverner has served in the Toronto Police Service since 1967. As superintendent, he is the unit commander for three divisions that overlap with Ford’s home community of Etobicoke.
With his new job — which he will start Dec. 17 — Taverner will leapfrog over the OPP ranks of chief superintendent and deputy commissioner to become commissioner.
Asked about the multiple promotions in rank early Monday, Jones said, “We are looking for someone that understands front line officers, that understands the challenges that are there and the hiring process saw that clearly.”
The promotion means Taverner will go from being responsible for more than 700 uniformed officers and civilian staff to approximately 8,000 uniformed officers and civilian employees.
Jones told reporters that 27 people applied for the job and 15 of them were interviewed.
In its Thursday press release, the government said Taverner’s appointment was unanimously recommended by a “selection committee comprised exclusively of members of the Ontario Public Service and supported by Odgers Berndtson.”
In spite of Ford and Taverner’s personal relationship, Jones said she can “absolutely” guarantee that there will be a separation between the premier’s office and the commissioner.
However, Horwath told reporters she’s skeptical any separation will be maintained because she said Ford’s office has previously tried to direct police operations. In November, the Toronto Star reported that Ford’s chief of staff asked senior officials to ask police to raid illegal dispensaries on the day cannabis was legalized.
“We’ve already seen, as you know, a government that doesn’t understand that that’s not supposed to happen,” Horwath said.
The Ford government is already facing questions over its involvement in appointments in the electricity sector.
Ford’s chief of staff, Dean French, was accused of interfering with hiring at Ontario Power Generation last month. He reportedly asked the provincial Crown corporation to fire Alykhan Velshi, who held a key post in the office of former PC leader Patrick Brown, according to reporting by the Globe and Mail.
And last week, the Globe and Mail reported that the premier’s office is in a standoff with Hydro One over the selection of its next CEO.