For more than a year, Councillor Doug Ford, the mayor’s brother, has claimed he hasn’t spent a cent on expenses for his office. He has listed his expenses as $0 on the past three quarterly councillors’ office expense reports posted online.
He said last fall on local radio that he intended to spend “zero every single year because I don’t believe in spending taxpayers’ money on fancy, self-promoting brochures, or other areas that councillors spend on.”
But according to several invoices obtained through an access to information request by The Globe and Mail, Mr. Ford has spent $2,076.01 on business cards, office supplies and web-hosting services since last February. The documents include two invoices, totalling $1,529.46, issued by Deco Labels and Tags, the Ford family company.
The initial business card order for $1,470.13 is dated Feb. 24, 2011. All but one of the invoices was issued last year. City access officials have redacted detailed information about the order, citing commercial confidentiality.
As of Tuesday, the councillor expense website showed that Mr. Ford has not recorded any outlays since taking office on Dec. 1, 2010. The 2011 year-end report for council office expenses will be released March 10, according to city officials.
Even with these additional expenses, Mr. Ford continues to run the leanest operation on the second floor of City Hall.
In an interview Tuesday, Mr. Ford initially said he spent “a few hundred dollars” on cartridges, paper and pens. When told of the Deco invoices, he added, “You guys shout and scream if I don’t show an invoice. I’m paying it out of my own pocket.”
Under council’s expense policy, updated in January, 2011, individual councillors can spend up to $30,000 on non-salary offices expenses, either from city funds or from their own pocket. But the rules require councillors to publicly disclose any expenses they pay using their own money.
That policy was designed to create a level playing field and limit undisclosed contributions from third parties. “If a councillor doesn’t follow the procedure, how do you know how much money he’s spending on his office budget?” said Councillor Sarah Doucette, who appeared on Josh Matlow’s radio show when the office expense issue was being discussed. “Is he using more than the $30,000 limit?”
She stressed she has no problem with her council colleagues using their own funds to cover the cost of their office expenses.
Toronto resident Jude MacDonald, who has filed a complaint with the integrity commissioner over Mayor Ford’s office expenses, said the new documents run counter to Councillor Ford’s pledge in the election to promote accountability and transparency in the new administration.
“If you’re being forced by the media into revealing information that should be revealed on a quarterly basis, that is not transparent,” said Ms. MacDonald. Her complaint against Rob Ford, filed last summer, alleges that the mayor has not fully disclosed the expenses required to run his office.
Councillor Ford insisted Tuesday that he has adhered to the council disclosure rules. “I’ve disclosed to whoever we disclose to, the city clerk’s office,” he said. “At the end of the day, I’m not spending taxpayers’ money.”
Special to The Globe and Mail