TTC fires managers of over-budget Spadina subway extension
TTC CEO Andy Byford said it was time for a change.
March 19, 2015
By Tess Kalinowski
A week after Mayor John Tory suggested someone would be held to account, the TTC has fired two senior managers in charge of the over-budget, delayed Spadina subway extension.
TTC chief capital officer Sameh Ghaly and chief project manager Andy Bertolo - both long-term executives - were let go Thursday.
“After careful and lengthy consideration, I have determined that a change in leadership within the engineering, construction and expansion group, including the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension project, is necessary,” said TTC CEO Andy Byford in a memo to staff mid-afternoon.
Saying, “Torontonians have a right to expect better,” Tory issued a statement later signaling the potential for more dismissals in the future.
“I've been clear about the need for much stronger culture of accountability at city hall...From time to time that will and should mean personnel changes, as it would with any other organization. TTC CEO Andy Byford has my full support in his efforts to restore public confidence in the management of the Toronto-York Spadina Subway Extension,” said the mayor, who is in Austin on city business.
Ghaly earned $257,600 and Bertolo made $202,581, according to the 2013 provinicial list of public salaries published in compliance with the Public Sector Salary Disclosure Act.
The subway opening had already been delayed once when the Star reported in August that it likely wouldn't meet its second scheduled opening date in 2016. The project was plagued with issues ranging from funding delays and the death of a construction worker to contractor disputes and engineering issues.
Two weeks ago, the Star revealed the six-stop extension from Downsview Station to the Vaughan Metropolitan Centre was about $400 million over its $2.6 billion budget.
On Friday the TTC will issue a report outlining a revised construction schedule and costing. It will likely include the possibility of opening the line only as far as York University — a suggestion that has been vehemently opposed by Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca, who represents Vaughan.
Councillor and TTC board chair Josh Colle acknowledged Thursday that public projects in the city - many not managed by the TTC - notoriously run over time and over budget. It's a problem, he said, “that has maybe not been dealt with decisively enough.”
Saying he supports Byford in making “some difficult decisions,” Colle said the changes at the TTC “speak to a level of accountability that people want.”
TTC board member councillor Joe Mihevc said he had known Ghaly and Bertolo as “good civil servants, who did their best in difficult situations.
“It is tragic that someone has to take the fall,” he said.
While Byford has responsibility for staffing decisions, “The question from the Toronto Transit Commission's point of view is, is it the right call and what does this say about how we need to manage the leadership at the TTC?”
Other city councillors said action was needed in light of the overages on Spadina.
“If a project went $400 million over budget in the private sector there would be accountability,” said Deputy Mayor Denzil Minnan-Wong, who sits on the Toronto Transit Commission.
“Obviously something's gone wrong,” said fellow TTC member councillor John Campbell.
He dismissed any suggestion that Ghaly and Bertolo were scapegoats, saying he suspects “a certain amount of complacency in the civil service.”
“I have enough confidence in Andy Byford and his senior team to think he probably would have a clear understanding to assign performance with outcomes,” said Campbell.
“At this point I have very little confidence in the TTC to manage a major infrastructure project,” said councillor Josh Matlow, a vocal opponent of the Scarborough subway.
The “enormous” over-runs on Spadina “are inexcusable,” he said, adding, “There needs to be responsibility taken.”