As a young boy sitting at the dinner table on Friday nights and seeing his Italian immigrant parents go over the bills, Tony Veneziano was often called on for assistance.
“They gave the bills and bank book and said, ‘Why don’t you see if you could figure this out?’” he recalled. “They didn’t know what a budget was, but they were actually budgeting in that they were looking at how much came in and how much went out and I guess that’s why numbers come somewhat naturally to me. After 17 years as Toronto Police Service’s Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Veneziano retired on September 12.
As the longest serving Command Officer, he worked with three Chiefs of Police – Bill Blair, Mark Saunders and James Ramer.
“Tony has represented the Toronto Police Service with distinction and is a true professional and diplomat,” said Ramer. “His exceptional and progressive police leadership, focus on accountability and fiscal responsibility, active promotion of a safe and inclusive work environment and his dedication to the Service and the residents of Toronto have been stellar. I thank him for all that he has done for our organization and wish him all the best in the future.”
The Toronto Police Services Board thanked the outgoing CAO for his exceptional dedication and leadership.
“As an accomplished, professional, committed and focused member of the Service’s Command Team, Tony has helped enormously in charting our way forward with his vast expertise in business, risk & strategic management, human resources and fiscal responsibility,” said Chair Jim Hart. “A results-oriented and proactive leader experienced in dealing with highly sensitive and complex issues, he has promoted continuous improvement and a value-for-money approach across the Service while leading the movement towards the effective management of people, projects, contracts, operations and assets.”
As CAO since December 2005, Veneziano currently oversees the Service’s Corporate Service Command that comprises Legal Services, Finance & Business Management and People & Culture pillars, which includes Talent Acquisition, Labour Relations, Purchasing, Accounting, Payroll & Benefits and a number of operational support services, including Facilities and Fleet Services.
While numbers were a part of his job, he said that providing a welcoming and psychologically safe workplace is just as important – you have to ensure people feel they have a voice and are safe expressing their views and opinions.
“Making sure our members, both civilian and uniform, have the tools and equipment, safe facilities and vehicles as well as the information they need is huge,” said Veneziano, a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal for his outstanding contributions to the Toronto Police Service and the City of Toronto.
“Building the new College, was a big statement because it said that people are our most important asset and resource and we need to invest in them in order to be able to provide professional, efficient services that are free from any bias. It actually symbolized that we as a Service are making it a priority to make sure that our members get the mandatory and ongoing training they need to be able to do their job. If we don’t do that, we are doing a disservice to our members, the city and to the organization.”
He has also been the Command level member of executive steering committees that oversaw the successful implementation of various technological projects, including the Digital Video Management System, the In-Camera System and the Body-Worn Camera program.
Veneziano says that the budget process has evolved over his career to be more transparent and collaborative.
“What I have seen is a true commitment to working in partnership with our Board and some of our key community and city stakeholders. We realized many years ago that you cannot do it alone. But for us to do it with others, we have to get their trust and confidence and it is only then they will start working with us.”
Finance and Business Management Director Cindy Grant has worked alongside Veneziano on many budgets over their careers says he will be missed.
“It has been an honour and a pleasure to work with Tony. He always created an environment where everyone could speak up and know that their perspectives and contributions would be valued. The decisions he made and the guidance he gave always came from a place of integrity.”
Veneziano, who holds a Chartered Professional Accountant designation, came to Toronto Police from the City of Toronto where he spent seven years as Director of the City Auditor General’s Office and Director of Internal Audit.
He established the internal audit function at the City and oversaw the implementation of the City’s fraud and waste hotline – the first of its kind in Canada
“When I was there, I also did the police budget and so I got to know some of the people,” he pointed out. “I really came to respect the work that police do and when the opportunity arose for the CAO job, I jumped at it and was fortunate to be successful. That was one of the best decisions I made because public safety done in a respectful and professional way is critical for where people live, work, visit and do business in. Missing the people he worked with in the last 17 years, he said, is the hardest part of leaving. He plans to spend more time with family and travelling.