Cecilia Leung began as a contractor with the TTC’s IT department in August of 2005 – assigned to a one-year project to convert 30-year-old software for the transit authority’s accounts payable, procurement and other systems.
On May 25 of last year — a little more than a week before her wedding — the 35-year-old computer specialist was unceremoniously dumped by the Blue Suits.Her crime: Daring to speak up about the culture of mismanagement at the TTC.
She saw concerns from the first year she was there. But in late April of 2011 — fed up with the waste and misuse of tax dollars — the feisty computer specialist was convinced by a friend to relay her concerns to Gordon Chong.
That proved to be her undoing.
Even the way she was fired bordered on sadistic.
On May 16 of last year — thinking that she’d been called to a “normal” meeting — Leung was confronted by two supervisors (plus a note-taker) who peppered her for an hour with questions. “It was an interrogation ... They were very intimidating,” she said.
The next day, they approached her with what was supposed to be a transcript of the meeting — but which actually claimed Chong and Mayor Rob Ford had “pressured her” to find inefficiencies in the system.
When she refused to sign the transcript, the TTC brass locked her out of their computer system.
For a week and a half they left her to “sit there” until she was officially terminated on May 25.
She told me Monday that in her six years, project deadlines were never met and a typical project could go on forever. Her project was supposed to be done in April of 2006 but she was still working on it in April of 2011.
“There is no such thing as a deadline ... Nobody takes deadlines seriously,” she said.
No one within the TTC management ranks really seems to care about tax dollars either, Leung says.
When a particular project runs out of money, the Blue Suits simply shift money around from another project, or go to the Commissioners to get more.
“I don’t think they (TTC officials) manage money very well,” she said.
She also found an overabundance of contractors hired to do the jobs of full-time employees — mostly because the permanent employees are either “incompetent” or “inexperienced.”
Hiring is “mostly fixed” — meaning the Blue Suits already know who they will hire beforehand but “fake” a process to make it look legit.
“Most of the full-time positions tend to be relatives (of other TTC managers),” she said.
Leung, who’d had her contract renewed three times on the project, had already been reassigned to other projects when she was dumped.
But the TTC brass claimed back then — and to this day — that her project had been completed.
When she was lucky enough to meet with Karen Stintz — just before being fired — Leung said she got the feeling she was “wasting” the TTC chairman’s time.
“She wasn’t very nice at all,” she said. “She didn’t want to listen to me.”
Stintz followed up the meeting with a July 25 letter to Leung’s lawyer claiming they were not just investigating her concerns but also looking into whether the contractor had breached her non-disclosure agreement — even though Leung comes under the mayor’s new Whistleblower Protection Policy.
“I was very angry,” she said. “I was very much let down by the system ... They didn’t take me seriously.”
TTC CGM Gary Webster and his sidekick Vince Rodo never met with her.
But spokesman Brad Ross said Monday the TTC found “no substance” to what Leung raised. He also told me that based on the information available, they were “unable to determine” whether she’d breached her confidentiality agreement.
Stintz told me that there wasn’t “sufficient information” from Leung to pursue some of her more serious allegations. “We investigated to the best of our ability,” she said.
Stintz added that she was “sorry to hear” Leung felt her concerns weren’t taken seriously.
Despite losing her job and being blacklisted by the TTC, Leung said she felt she had to come forward because it ate her up inside that the Blue Suits were not managing money properly.
“It’s taxpayer’s money,” she said. “It’s really deeply rooted in the culture ... A lot of these things become the norm in there and nobody says anything.”