Mitchell accepts responsibility for the corporation’s failure to follow tendering and procurement policies. A decentralized system allowed managers to use “poor judgment, no judgment, and not do things the right way. I realize the stuff happened on my watch and I have to take responsibility,” though he says some decisions resulted in savings and social good.
The relationship with the new regime at city hall was non-existent. Ford never asked to meet with him, Mitchell says, even though Toronto Housing has $6 billion in assets.
While he had the cellphone number of ex-mayor David Miller and spoke with him three times a month, Ford has never called. “This gentleman,” he said, “is more interested in looking for gravy.”
It’s kind of interesting that our cellphone-addict mayor didn’t bother to keep the lines of communication open with the TCHC Chair like Miller apparently did.
Ultimately, though, I think Mitchell and the board played this badly. They seemed to realize too late that resigning was the only move that made sense given the way the story was being played in the media. The couple of days where they dragged their feet have likely done a lot to advance the public appetite for TCHC privatization. That’s not a good thing.
The question I’m asking now: what happens after you fire everyone? It’s not going to magically fix things. Those that sat on the TCHC Board and the managers within the corporation were not simply evil people, contaminating all that’s good and pure. Removing them and starting the process over again isn’t guaranteed to do anything but cost the city and TCHC a lot of money.
And how far do you take it? People from both the left and the right have been calling for audits on every city agency, board and committee. And here’s the thing: I have no doubt every single one of those agencies, boards and committees has, to varying degrees, examples of waste, abuse and mismanagement. Whether it be an incorrectly expensed meal, an ill-advised ‘business trip’ or ‘retreat’, or a botched procurement contract. They’re there. We’d find them.
And that sucks.
But I think about the possibility that the city could end up in a giant circle of audits, investigations and firings for the next three years and it concerns me. How far do you push it? This isn’t city building — it’s a quixotic quest to save money that’s already been lost. To create some sort of ultra-perfect bureaucracy that can’t ever exist.
Real positive change goes beyond audits and resignation letters. It requires a permanent cultural shift.