Nearly three-quarters of the citizen candidates for city boards whose names appeared on an internal list prepared by the mayor’s office were selected to serve – proof, Rob Ford’s council opponents say, that his office influenced the picks.
The Globe and Mail viewed a partial copy of the list, a copy of which was discovered in the city manager’s office in early October and handed to the city ombudsman, who included it in a confidential report delivered to councillors Wednesday.
The mayor has repeatedly denied that such a list was drawn up by his office.
The document reveals that 13 of the 18 Toronto citizens appointed to five different boards – those overseeing the police service, the library system, the parking authority, the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and the port authority – were on the list.
They include Andrew Pringle, a chief of staff to former Ontario Progressive Conservative leader John Tory, who was appointed to the police board; Jim Ginou, a major Conservative fundraiser, appointed to the Toronto Port Authority; Mike Foderick, a former executive assistant to a member of the mayor’s executive committee, appointed to the library board; and Shimshon Posen, an appointee to the parking authority who ran unsuccessfully against one of the mayor’s left-leaning opponents on council.
The controversy over the appointees list became public in late September, when Ombudsman Fiona Crean released a report that found the mayor’s office had interfered in the civic appointment process.
The policy for selecting citizen representatives to city boards is intended to combat favouritism and ensure that candidates are judged on experience and expertise rather than political connections. According to the ombudsman’s report, a list of preferred candidates drawn up by the mayor’s political staff was allegedly spotted at the July 18 meeting of the civic appointments committee. Some claimed to have seen the list circulated to committee members known to support the mayor, while others, including the mayor, denied it existed at all.
Then last week it was revealed that a staffer in the city manager’s office had found a copy of a list of names in early October and turned it over to Ms. Crean.
Mayor Ford said Wednesday’s council meeting was the first time he had seen such a list of names. He added that he recognized only three names on the list, including Mr. Pringle, who he pointed out did not support him in his run for mayor. Another was Darius Mosun. The mayor said he could not remember the third name.
“Three out of 27 people on that list – I knew them. And if they contributed to my campaign it must have been after,” Mr. Ford said.
He called the hours-long debate over the list “left-wing nonsense.”
“I never saw the list. I had nothing to do with the list,” he said. “It’s nonsense. Everyone can see through this nonsense. It’s just all politics. There is nothing to it. It’s a bunch of theatre. It’s all smoke and mirrors from the left wing.”
He also denied suggestions that the list is proof his office influenced the appointment process. “It’s not true,” he said. “It’s an outright lie.”
Councillor Janet Davis said the discovery of the list should satisfy those who had questioned the ombudsman’s original report by saying it was based on hearsay.
“The list that we saw today was the list I saw on the tables of councillors on July 18 at civic appointments committee,” she said. “It was a list from the mayor’s office that that office wanted shortlisted, interviewed and appointed.”
That fact that three-quarters of the people on that list were appointed is worrisome, she said. “We have a public appointments policy that is intended to make sure every applicant is treated fairly.”
Councillor Frances Nunziata, chair of the civic appointments committee, said the best candidates were picked. “Some councillors are very bitter because they did not get their friends on the committee,” she said. “When they are not happy, they bitch.”
Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, an ally of the mayor who also served on council during the terms of David Miller and Mel Lastman, said mayors always have influence on civilian appointments.
“Whether it’s on a piece of paper or not on a piece of paper, the results of any of these committees, through all those administrations, reflect a clear stamp of what the mayor wants and who the mayor wants,” he said. “They found the piece of paper. God bless them for doing that. The reality is every single mayor, if you look at the make-up of important committees, gets their people on.”
Councillor Doug Ford took issue with critics who claim the process was subverted. “It was a clear, transparent process, everyone knows it,” he said. “I was on the committee and I would never apologize for trying to pick, [after] running through the resumes, very fiscal, conservative-minded people.”
As for those on the list, Mr. Pringle, when reached by The Globe Wednesday, said he didn’t know anything about a preferred list of candidates. “I haven’t talked to the mayor’s office. I was asked if I would put my name forward for committees and I said, ‘Yes, I would.’ That was it. And not by the mayor’s office.”
When asked who had suggested he apply, he said: “To be perfectly honest, I’ve forgotten. It was one of those things to just go to a website. So I went to a website and filled in my information. That was all.”
Wednesday’s debate over the report follows a decision by council to renew Ms. Crean’s contract for only two years, rather than the standard five-year term. The shortened contract was proposed by the mayor, who suggested recently that the city’s three accountability officers, including the ombudsman, should be replaced by a lawyer on retainer.
With reports from Elizabeth Church and Vidya Kauri
Correction: Darius Mosun, a member of the Toronto Parking Authority board, did not run against one of the mayor’s left-leaning opponents in 2010. Shimshon Posen, another member of the TPA board, whose name also appeared on an internal list of preferred candidates, did. Incorrect information appeared in a story Wednesday.