If there were such a thing as an unofficial member of the TTC board, Steve Munro would be it.
The blogger and activist is regular fixture at TTC meetings, and his knowledge of the commission's operations have won him the respect of many politicians. Arguably, he understands more than most about the workings of Toronto's transit system.
When council voted in March to reshape the commission's board by adding four citizen commissioners to its seven councillors, Munro thought about throwing his hat in the ring.
But that was before Monday night, when he attended one of the four public information sessions the city held this week to encourage members of the public to apply.
On his blog Tuesday morning, Munro called the event "a sham and a disgrace."
He complained that the meeting was held in City Hall's busy rotunda rather than a committee room where most official meetings are convened, and wrote that the session's organizers didn't provide enough chairs for the two dozen people who showed up. He also charged that the TTC representative at the meeting was unprepared and dismissive of those who attended.
"There wasn't the tiniest semblance of this being a formal meeting that had any respect [for participants]," Munro says. "They clearly didn't expect to have anybody worth talking to there... What that tells me is the real recruiting is going on privately."
Munro believes neither the TTC nor the city manager's office, which is overseeing the recruitment process, are serious about reaching out to the general public and are focusing on behind-the-scenes headhunting in the private sector.
In March council took the unusual step of authorizing the city manager to hire an outside consultant to assist in the search for new citizen commissioners. Usually, the board appointment process is conducted in-house.
In this case however the desired qualifications outlined by council set a higher bar than usual - they state that new board members must have "directorship and executive-level experience" in areas such as business management, engineering, customer service, and transit planning.
The consultant hired by the city has been identified as Jeff Richmond of Nafor Human Resources.
Joe Borowiec of the city manager's office dismisses the suggestion the external headhunting process has made outreach to the general public redundant. He says Munro misunderstood the intent of the public sessions, and that they were intended to be drop-in sessions rather than formal meetings.
Borowiec says that the city manager's office is required to open the process to the public and insists that that all applications will be taken seriously.
"There's no reason why someone who walks in off the street and picks up a form would not be a successful applicant," Borowiec says. "We're not looking to limit it to only corporate directors. We're looking to reach out and communicate with anybody and everybody out there because we don't know where those possible candidates are."
TTC chair Karen Stintz did not immediately return a request for comment.
But Councillor John Parker, who sits on the TTC board, says that because of the considerable responsibilities the citizen commissioners will have, it only makes sense to cast as wide a net as possible in the hunt for qualified candidates.
"I think you welcome the public into the process and see what comes of that," he says. "But given the nature of the enterprise and the seriousness of the role, I think it's also important we have a disciplined search process to bring in the kind of talent, background, and expertise that is going to bring value to the board."
Staff in the city manager's office say that whether the applications are referred by the consultant, picked up at an information session, or downloaded from the internet, according to city policy they will all be forwarded, with minimal screening, to the civic appointments committee, which will then recommend a short list to council for a final vote in October.
The deadline for applications to the board is 4:30 pm on Wednesday, July 4. Citizen commissioners will serve a maximum of two four-year terms and most will be given a $5,000 annual honorarium. One citizen member will be appointed vice-chair, and will receive $10,000 a year.