Just how thorough was that background check?


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St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital CEO Paul Collins checked in with us via email this week to offer insight into the hiring of vice-president of corporate services Malcolm Hopkins.
If you recall, Hopkins confirmed with this corner he was employed by The Kerkhoff Group, a B.C. construction, property development and building products manufacturing group of companies that went “spectacularly bankrupt around 1994” – his description of the meltdown.
In the aftermath, Hopkins was ordered to pay $10,000 and was issued with a five-year director/officer ban with conditions in 1997 by the British Columbia Securities Commission.
Our question: four years after this disciplinary action, what was the process that led to the hiring of Hopkins at STEGH?
Collins passed along the following summary.

“A search for Vice President and Chief Financial Officer (CFO) was undertaken by STEGH in late fall 2001. STEGH was under significant financial pressure with accumulating debt and year-over-year deficits. Skilled financial leadership was required to help lead the difficult process to move the financial status of the hospital to a solid operating and debt position,” Collins writes.
malcolm hopkins
He continues, “The process included: Preparation of job description, advertisement and criteria for selection; recruitment strategy, which included newspaper advertisements and posting of the ad on a web-based recruitment site; evaluation of respondents against criteria, based on submitted resumes and cover letter information; interviews of short-listed candidates, and selection of preferred candidate; reference check of preferred candidates, acceptance of offer of employment and scheduling of start date.” In total, 84 candidates from Canada and several other countries applied for the position. This was reduced to a short list of 10 individuals interviewed by the hospital CEO and the vice-president of human resources. Well, it just so happens the hospital CEO at that time was Collins, promoted to the post in September, 2001.
As to his relevant qualifications, Collins notes Hopkins “was employed in a leadership position as CFO in the social services sector in British Columbia and had been for the previous seven years.”
In other words, there appears to be no reference to Hopkins’ involvement with the spectacular bankruptcy of The Kerkhoff Group. Following a reference check and acceptance of an offer, Hopkins began his employment at STEGH in March of 2002.
Collins insists he knew nothing about the B.C. Securities situation until 2006. He writes, “At that time it was reviewed in detail, discussed with Mr. Hopkins and the STEGH board chair, and with hospital legal counsel. It was concluded that this was not an issue that impacted the hiring process. “Mr. Hopkins had received a sanction from the BC securities commission, applicable only within BC, and that the sanction period ended in 2002. It did not impact his professional chartered accountant designation, nor his ability to perform in the role for which he was hired by STEGH.”
If Collins knew nothing about this until five years after Hopkins was hired, you have to seriously question the thoroughness of reference checks and verification of employment history in the hiring of an individual to fill such a critical position – and critical time – as hospital CFO. Especially in light of 83 other candidate submissions from around the world. Or were there other factors at play here?

SO, WHAT’S BEING DONE?
In our delayed edition of City Scope this past Tuesday, we exposed the toxic workplace environment that has surfaced once again in the treasury department and the revelation at least employee is off on stress leave.
A call on Thursday to HR manager Graham Dart has yet to be returned as we try to determine what is being done to deal with allegations of verbal harassment.
Furthermore, what are the recommendations contained in a third-party report and has this document been presented to council?
And, what is Dart doing to promote a harmonious workplace atmosphere that will entice a valued employee back to work to contribute in the admirable fashion they have been praised for in the past.
The type of employee this city should be proud of.
Instead, we have a case here of staffers subject to verbal bullying or the personal whim of a department head while others in authority turn a blind eye or hide behind policy and procedures they choose not to enforce.
It’s a shameful situation at a workplace that ideally should be touted as a model for others.

NOW THIS WILL PROVE INTERESTING
A shock announcement Monday by Ald. Sam Yusuf, who tendered his resignation from council, effective April 26. His seat will officially become vacant at the next meeting of council on May 6.
You don’t think there is going to be some serious jockeying between the two factions on council as to the process to be employed in order to fill the vacancy within the 60-day time limit mandated in the Ontario Municipal Act.
Members of council can either appoint a replacement or call a byelection.

A DRASTIC MOVE
Eagle-eyed reader Chris McGann caught this item buried away deep inside the city’s 2013 infrastructure budget which was debated Monday and I feel like a fool for not spotting it.
It’s a line item in the budget referring to disposal of the Jumbo statue.
At a recent closed-door session of council, members voted to sell the larger-than-life Jumbo due to escalating maintenance costs.
The notation in the budget report advises selling Jumbo will bring in much-needed revenue.
The determination now is whether there would be greater value selling Jumbo intact or reducing the statue to souvenir-sized pieces available for purchase by interested individuals.
A final decision will be voted on at the April 1 council meeting.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“An unfortunate precedent has been set – can’t afford it, then tear it down, no matter how culturally significant a building is. A shameful state of affairs!”
Reader Earl Taylor commenting on the T-J website as demolition of Grace United Church on Balaclava Street began on Thursday.

City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions or comments may be emailed to ian.mccallum@sunmedia.ca.

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One thought on “Just how thorough was that background check?

  1. As an avid reader and follower of Ian’s City scope blog (from here in beautiful Brampton,Ontario ) I can assure TJ reader Earl Taylor that not all cities follow the “demolition by neglect” as was the sad case with Alma College or as in the most recent case of Grace United church being demolished,with the city seemingly allowing it to continue,without batting an eye.Here in Brampton our city council and our Mayor have stood strong on preserving our heritage buildings,especially in our downtown core.Ive had many disagreements with Brampton city council,but when it comes to heritage preservation,they have been on the right side of history. Once these historic buildings have been turned into rubble,that part of our history has been lost to photographs.So many times you will come across a photograph of an historic building and more often than not the building is no longer standing,which is very sad.Governments at all levels have to take a stand and protect our past and it starts on the front step of every historic building all across Canada and around the world for that matter. Preserve and protect our history!

    Bob Foster
    Brampton,Ontario

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