The head of Toronto’s embattled public housing provider has been placed on administrative leave and an outside firm has been called in to review a consulting contract that the housing corporation’s board found was awarded through a “flawed” process.
Kathy Milsom had been appointed to the role of chief executive officer for the Toronto Community Housing Corporation last August. The news that the decision had been made to place her on paid leave was made through a press release sent out on Monday afternoon, with a statement from the housing provider’s board.
The board also announced the immediate termination of a close to $1.3 million contract with Orchango, a management consultant agency brought on to help with the reorganization of the housing corporation. An employee who oversaw the request for proposal (RFP) or application process for the contract has also been placed on paid leave, the board said.
Law firm Bennett Jones will conduct the review, a spokesperson for the housing provider confirmed. The firm will examine how a process the board learned “was flawed and did not follow existing TCHC regulations” was used to award the contract, according to the release.
The existence of the contract and its value was first reported by the Toronto Sun.
“We hold ourselves to higher standards and, as a result, the board has directed TCHC to terminate the contract with Orchango effective immediately,” the board said. “We remain committed to transparency regarding this process and will keep our employees, tenants and the public updated on a resolution to this matter.”
Of the decision to put Milsom and the employee on leave the board said, “This is not disciplinary action, but part of a prudent effort to ensure the independence and integrity of the ongoing review.”
Orchango’s president and co-founder declined to comment on the board’s decision and said the company would not immediately be releasing a formal statement. “We are looking into the matter,” said Edmond Mellina, speaking with the Star on Monday.
Mayor John Tory, in a statement released shortly after Milsom’s leave was announced, said he had spoken with board chair Kevin Marshman about ensuring that the change does not impact tenants. About 110,000 Torontonians rely on the housing agency for a place to call home, many of them struggling to make ends meet in Canada’s largest city.
“The good governance of all city agencies is essential and requires that everyone involved with these organizations is held to the highest standards. The Toronto Community Housing board has taken decisive action. I believe the board has made the right decision,” said Tory.
Vice-President Sheila Penny will, effective immediately, serve as acting CEO to maintain “to maintain stability and continuity for our employees and tenants, said the release.
Early this year the Star’s Jennifer Paglario reported that a private law firm had been called in to investigate human resources practices at the corporation after several complaints were filed with the city’s ombudsman. One current manager and five former employees described a “culture of fear” where people felt bullied and harassed.
With files from Jennifer Pagliaro.
Emily Mathieu is a Toronto-based reporter covering affordable and precarious housing. Follow her on Twitter: @emathieustar