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An Investigation into the Administration of Public Appointments Policy

The Issue

After every election, City Council must appoint members to the boards of many of the 120 agencies that deliver City services. These agencies, boards, and commissions have a substantial impact on the City’s operations. They are responsible for 33% of the operating and capital expenditures, employ 48% of the staff at the City of Toronto, and account for $15 billion of the City’s assets.

Starting in late 2011, we received a number of complaints about the way the public appointments process was administered. The complaints related to the lack of diversity among the successful candidates, the inadequacy of staff resources, and criticism about the handling of a potential conflict of interest.

Our Investigation

The core issue in this investigation is whether the public appointments process for the City’s agencies and the Public Appointments Policy (Policy) were implemented with consistency, integrity, and fairness, which are all stated purposes of the Policy. This investigation examined the following issues:

  • Whether the recruitment and selection processes of the Policy were followed;
  • Whether the Policy and procedures are adequate;
  • Whether the public appointments process is transparent; and
  • Whether staff resources are sufficient and appropriate to administer the process.

This investigation did not review the decisions of Council or the Civic Appointments Committee (Committee), which is composed of Councillors, in making public appointments.

A significant number of people were interviewed during the investigation. These included current and retired staff from the City Manager’s Office (CMO) and the City Clerk’s Office (CCO), Committee members, past and present, along with other City Councillors and Mayor’s staff.

What We Found

This investigation revealed that the process for recruitment and selection of citizen members to boards did not follow the requirements set out in the Public Appointments Policy. This was unreasonable and wrong. Specific issues included that:

  • The failure to adhere to the Policy undermined principles of openness, competition, equity and challenged the value of a merit-based, representative and accountable appointments process.
  • There was an absence of a clearly articulated process to deal with applicants’ potential conflicts of interest.
  • The absence of any advance diversity outreach impacted negatively on the composition of applicants in the qualified pool.
  • Any confusion between staff of the City Manager’s Office and the City Clerk’s Office was magnified by heavy workloads, acute resource shortages and unreasonable timelines.

Our Recommendations

We made a number of recommendations to improve the fairness of this process, including:

  • Responsibility for the Policy should be brought together in a single office, staffed with the necessary expertise in policy and governance, human resources, administration and equity, and that it report to a senior executive at the City.
  • A procedure should be developed for immediately reporting to the Civic Appointments Committee any known actual or potential conflicts of interest, or other eligibility issues.
  • Community engagement strategies need to be developed and properly funded and staffed in order to attract and recruit applicants from diverse communities.