The Ottawa Police Services Board is set to consider a proposal to hire members of the force's own community equity council — a group intended to mend police relationships with marginalized groups — to help recruit a new police chief.
The move raises questions about the propriety of a potential double-dip into public coffers by members of a group that's tied to the police service, but also vying for city contracts related to police recruiting and operations.
The board's human resources committee recommended Friday the board approve "the procurement of Hefid Solutions by Odgers Berndtson to assist with the design, implementation, and report back on the community engagement process for the Chief of Police recruitment."
Executive recruiting firm Odgers Berndtson is recruiting the force's next chief and deputy chief.
The firm has been the recruiter on the last four police executive jobs hired by the board. Three of those hires either resigned or were terminated in scandal.
Recruiter approached firm, director says
A representative from the firm addressed Friday's meeting via telephone and told the committee the initial proposal for recruitment included finding a third party to carry out community consultations.
Hefid Solutions, or Hefid Consult Inc., is a federally and provincially incorporated business with Hector Addison and his wife Fidelia Addison listed as its primary directors.
Hector Addison told the committee that it was the representative from the recruiting firm who first approached him about the contract.
He outlined to the committee a plan to design and execute a community consultation plan that would include consulting about 150 people through town halls, interviews and an online survey, with the final report going back to the recruiting firm in July.
"There is basically no room to make mistakes," Addison told the committee.
3 equity council members on 6-person Hefid team
Addison is a "community member" of the community equity council — a fact which he publicly acknowledged in his presentation to the committee Friday. That presentation also included Addison showing the committee pictures and bios of his six-person team, which includes three members of the community equity council, including its co-chair.
Sahada Alolo, Hodan Egale and Addison all sit on the CEC and on the Hefid team. That was not communicated by Addison in the presentation. None of their bios presented to the committee identified them as CEC members.
The CEC consists of senior police officers and community members sitting at the table together and has a mandate to "collaborate with the Ottawa Police Service to work more effectively with Indigenous, racialized and faith-based communities in Ottawa."
This is a private business, OK? So I don't see anything wrong. - Hector Addison, Hefid Consult Inc.
CBC News asked Addison after the meeting how three CEC members could do this recruiting work. He said he didn't believe there was any conflict.
"We only advise them (OPS) on certain things internally and then how to engage with the community. That's the work of the community equity council. We are not their mouthpiece. We criticize them when we need to, but the bottom line, the reason why we are there is to ensure that the police reflect the community we serve.
"It's through the work of the community equity council that the Ottawa police was able to recruit many diverse people into the force because we realized that the community wanted to be reflected in the force that serves them," Addison said.
"This is a private business, OK? So I don't see anything wrong. It has nothing to do with the police. Those individuals who are on my team who sit on the police equity council, they also do various work."
Contract worth $54K
Addison said the proposed recruiting work wouldn't see any of his team speaking to the police, only community members and the recruiting firm. His team would ultimately have no say in the selection process and wouldn't be working with the police board, he said.
But that work — collecting community responses for what they want to see in a new chief — would ultimately shape the job descriptions that recruiting firm Odgers Berndtson publicizes for the next chief of police.
It's unclear how having three members of the CEC have access to and knowledge of those responses, but not use them in shaping any CEC decisions or discussions, would work.
Addison told CBC the total value of the proposed recruiting contract to Hefid is worth $54,000, which includes about $7,500 in honorariums to prospective consultation participants.
Advocacy group raises concerns
613-819 Black Hub, a grassroots advocacy group with eyes on city hall and the police, has also raised concerns with Hefid receiving another city contract.
City agency Crime Prevention Ottawa awarded Hefid a contract for the renewal of the Ottawa Street Violence and Gang Strategy — a citywide, multi-agency approach to address gun violence that also informs the force's policing objectives.
That contract, like the recruiting one, includes some similar work, such as compiling community feedback and designing consultations.
"Hefid Solutions is a division of Hefid Consult Inc. It is a global consultants marketplace that offers customized solutions to business challenges. We solve Tomorrow's Problems Today," according to the Hefid website. The website also includes vague testimonials, absent of any identifying details from former clients, one of whom is allegedly named "Eric Clapton."
The Hefid contract with Crime Prevention Ottawa is worth $50,000, but also includes a smaller contract with the African Canadian Association of Ottawa to distribute honorariums to consultation participants. Addison is the founder of the African Canadian Association of Ottawa.
Board to decide on contract May 30
"These issues raise serious concerns about the legitimacy and credibility of Crime Prevention Ottawa as a municipal city funder whose mission is to enhance community safety through 'collaborative evidence-based' crime prevention," 613-819 Black Hub said in a news release.
"The Ottawa Police Services Board's Human Resources committee decision today to recommend hiring Hefid to help recruit Ottawa's new police chief raises similar concerns about the Committee's competence and impartiality regarding the Ottawa Police Service."
Police board chair Coun. Eli El-Chantiry, who sits on the human resources committee and approved the recommendation to the board on Friday, told CBC News he's had little interaction with the CEC since he returned as chair earlier this year.
El-Chantiry said he was pleased to see a plan that would engage racialized communities, but in the interest of transparency would be looking into the proposed contract further.
The police board is scheduled to either approve or reject the Hefid contract on May 30.