NEWS

Council adopts ombudsman's recommendations after debate

10/04/2012 11:16 EDT | Updated 12/04/2012 05:12 EST
City councillors spent hours debating a controversial report by the city ombudsman, but ultimately voted to accept her recommendations regarding the appointment process for city boards and commissions.

Ombudsman Fiona Crean presented her report to council at city hall on Thursday morning. It says Ford's office exerted undue influence on the appointment process to the city's boards and commissions.

It's the same investigation that left two councillors — Giorgio Mammoliti and Gord Perks — arguing nose to nose inside city hall on Wednesday.

Crean's report, released a week ago, says that the mayor’s office pushed in the summer of 2011 to accelerate the process of appointing members to the city’s agencies, boards and commission by two months.

Because of the shortened timelines, the integrity of the civic appointments committee, a group of councillors that has the final say on these appointments, was "open to perceptions that selections were done in an arbitrary manner, instead of one based on merit," Crean found.

Mammoliti and Coun. Doug Ford were among the most forceful critics on Thursday, with Mammoliti heckling that the report was politically motivated and Ford saying the report was "hearsay."

Crean, who calmly replied to numerous councillors' questions, said the report was not hearsay as the information all came from direct interviews. The report did not publicly identify the people interviewed, though participants did so under oath.

The report also says that the mayor’s office also provided "detailed direction" on advertising, encouraging people to apply for the vacant positions, staff told the ombudsman.

Staff also reported that the mayor’s office asked them to remove language that encouraged members of the "city’s diverse population to apply." But staff refused that request.

After debating the matter for hours, the council voted to accept the recommendations from Crean’s report, which include developing a procedure to ensure any potential or actual conflicts of interest are flagged and reported to the civic appointments committee.

Report sparked tense confrontation

Crean's report also says that the mayor’s office specifically requested that no advertisements be placed in the Toronto Star. When staff countered that the Star has a diverse readership and a large circulation, the mayor’s staff said "we do not like The Star," said the report.

Mammoliti had already risen in council on Wednesday and questioned the impartiality of the ombudsman, calling her report politically driven.

When the speaker demanded an apology from Mammoliti, he refused and left the floor. Mammoliti later went to the back of the council chambers to speak to reporters when he was confronted by Perks.

The two had a brief, heated exchange where Perks accused Mammoliti of "trying to destroy the public service in this city" and Mammoliti said, "I will defend myself if you keep touching me."

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