Toronto Mayor Rob Ford denied allegations he had prostitutes in his office or snorted cocaine at a restaurant and said he will pursue legal action against the former employees and waiter who made the statements to police.
Ford is facing new allegations contained in police documents released yesterday, including that he brought prostitutes to his office, guzzled vodka in his car, made a racial slur to a taxi driver and sexually propositioned a female staff member.
Ford, who has already admitted he smoked crack cocaine and bought illegal drugs while in office, was responding to allegations that were made in police interviews with former Ford staff members. None of the allegations have been proven in court and police have said there isn’t enough evidence to warrant charges against the mayor.
Ford said one of the women named in the police documents who came back to his office after a St. Patrick’s Day party last year wasn’t a prostitute.
“She’s a friend, and it makes me sick how people are saying this,” Ford told reporters outside his city hall office. “I’ve never had a prostitute here.”
He also denied saying he wanted to have oral sex with a staff member, who no longer works in his office.
“I would never do that, I’m happily married.” Ford said. “I’ve got more than enough to eat at home.”
Reporters present reacted with gasps to that statement and the mayor’s use of a vulgar sexual idiom. Ford later apologized for those remarks.
“For the past six months, I have been under tremendous, tremendous stress,” Ford said at a press conference, which was attended by his wife Renata. “The revelations yesterday of cocaine, escorts and prostitution has pushed me over the line and I used unforgivable language.”
The mayor said today he is receiving “support from a team of health-care professionals.”
“I am taking accountability,” he said, without elaborating.
Earlier, Ford said he may have driven a car after drinking.
“I might have had some drinks and driven, which is absolutely wrong,” he told reporters. “I’m not perfect, maybe you are, but I’m not.”
The police documents were released by an Ontario court the same day that Ford said for the first time he had bought illegal drugs within the past two years. Ford made the statement amid questioning at a city hall meeting in which a majority of city councilors passed a non-binding motion asking him to take a leave of absence to address his “personal issues.” Ford has refused to resign.
One of Ford’s few remaining allies among city councilors, Giorgio Mammoliti, threatened today to withdraw support for the mayor.
“If he doesn’t admit that he needs help, then he’s lost me and I’ll be taking a stand with my colleague Councilor Minnan-Wong and asking him to step down completely,” Mammoliti said, referring to Denzil Minnan-Wong, who backed the council motion yesterday for the mayor to take a leave. “He’s got till the end of the day.”
“Don’t panic, please city of Toronto, do not panic, everything is OK down here,” Mammoliti said in separate interview broadcast on CP24 television after Ford’s apology.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said the things she is hearing about Ford are “truly disturbing,” adding the province would consider stepping in to help the city if asked by council. Canadian municipalities are governed by provincial laws.
“If council were to clearly indicate that they lack the ability to function as a result of this matter, the province would respond to a request from council to be provided new tools depending on what that request might be,” Wynne told reporters at the provincial legislature.
“Every day he lowers the bar, and this is another one of those days,” Minnan-Wong, a former Ford supporter, said to reporters. “I’m very sad for the city and I’m exceedingly angry at the mayor. The mayor has got to go.”
According to two former staff members quoted in the documents, women who may have been prostitutes were in Ford’s city hall office on St. Patrick’s Day in 2012.
On the same night, Ford called a taxi driver a “Paki,” and made “mocking fake language sounds,” one of the staff members said, according to the documents.
In another incident last year, a former staff member told police that Ford pulled over his car, drank an 11- or 12-ounce bottle of vodka in two minutes and then drove away. Another staffer told police she bought Ford a bottle of vodka that size twice a week. Iceberg was his preferred brand, according to the documents.
In an interview with police, Mark Towhey, Ford’s former chief of staff, said he believed the mayor was an alcoholic and that he had consumed alcohol while at city hall, though he’d never seen him drink himself, according to the police documents.
Towhey was fired after recommending the mayor seek treatment, according to the documents.
Federal prosecutor Tom Andreopoulos sent the 500 pages of partially redacted police documents to media yesterday in an e-mail.
Before the latest allegations were released, 30 members of the 44-person council in Canada’s largest city presented a letter asking the mayor to step aside as Toronto’s reputation has been “damaged” and it has become difficult to focus on city business.
The non-binding motion comes as Ford, 44, vowed to remain in office after saying last week he smoked crack likely in one of his “drunken stupors.” Ford, who has been mayor since 2010, admitted to using the drug after Toronto police said on Oct. 29 they had found a video showing him inhaling from a glass crack pipe.
While Ford said he was “humiliated” by his recent actions, he repeated yesterday that he would stay in office and run in municipal elections next year.
“There is no need for me to take a leave of absence,” Ford said in city council. He said he used drugs “out of sheer stupidity” and had been “inebriated” a number of times.
Yesterday’s motion for Ford to step aside is symbolic because there’s nothing city council can do to force a sitting mayor from office, according to municipal rules.
Ford, who was removed from his position as a high school football coach this year, wore a Toronto Argonauts jersey when he spoke to reporters this morning. That prompted Twitter messages from the Canadian Football League team, which plays in a semifinal game this weekend.
“The situation with respect to the mayor and his leadership is unseemly at best,” the CFL team posted on Twitter today. “These latest remarks, while wearing our team’s jersey, are particularly disappointing.”