Councillor Paul Ainslie says a table of people witnessed him speaking to Rob Ford’s chief of staff, urging him to get the mayor to leave a lavish military gala.
Mr. Ainslie said Wednesday evening he has a “difference of opinion” with Mark Towhey, the mayor’s senior adviser, who told The Globe the exchange never took place. The comments by the Scarborough councillor add new details to his version of events at the black-tie dinner.
“I have a table of people that were behind me when I asked him to ask the mayor to leave the ball,” Mr. Ainslie told reporters before chairing a Library Board meeting. “I [told] the mayor’s chief of staff that I had concerns about the mayor and he should leave the ball.”
Mr. Towhey said on Tuesday that “no one asked me to ask the mayor to leave.”
Mr. Ainslie’s recollections of Mr. Ford’s behaviour at the Feb. 23 Garrison Ball, now under a microscope after media reports of the mayor’s alleged “intoxication,” were contained in a brief e-mail that he sent to the event’s organizers late Tuesday afternoon, obtained by The Globe and Mail.
The e-mail also states that the councillor was approached by eight party-goers who were “concerned about the Mayor’s state.”
On Wednesday, Mr. Ainslie said he made the request of Mr. Towhey after he spoke with the mayor, but refused to discuss what was said or what led him to make the request. “That’s a private conversation,” Mr. Ainslie said.
In the e-mail, Mr. Ainslie provided some detail. He wrote: “Think its [sic] safe to say I was the only person who spoke with Mayor’s Chief of Staff Mark Towhey.”
“This was after being approached by @ least 8 people who were concerned about the Mayor’s state.”
“I spoke briefly with the Mayor to see if there were any issues,” it goes on to say. “He seemed to be somewhat incoherent. I told Mark Towhey. “I think it would be a good idea for the Mayor to leave.”
In the e-mail, Mr. Ainslie says he was the one who pushed the mayor to attend the ball and he’s embarrassed by the media attention that’s been brought to bear on the event. He offered to resign from the gala’s organizing committee.
The mayor’s office did not respond to questions sent to spokesman George Christopoulos Wednesday. Mr. Towhey did not respond to requests for comment.
A story about the mayor’s alleged alcohol abuse was published Tuesday in the Toronto Star, which cited anonymous sources who said those closest to the mayor were concerned about his health and ability to run the city. Mr. Ford Tuesday lashed out at the report, characterizing it as “just lies after lies and lies.”
A party-goer told The Globe she spoke to the mayor briefly and “he was absolutely not drunk. … absolutely not, he had his children with him.”
“He was inside the hall. He came in and said hello to everybody. ... dinner had just finished being served if I’m not mistaken,” said Ameila Monteleone in an interview.
“He was with his children and he didn’t stay for a long period of time. Maybe an hour, if that. I don’t understand how someone could think he could get drunk in an hour with two children....
“I introduced myself to him, and he introduced himself to me, and the children introduced themselves to me.”
Wednesday, the mayor arrived at City Hall midday, but would not talk to reporters. Councillor Doug Ford defended his brother, saying in a television interview Wednesday that the only health-related concern he has about his brother is “he’s overweight.” He said claims about alleged alcohol abuse are the work of the mayor’s critics.
“We’re going to stay focused. We’re going to ignore their little sideshows to get us off track. When they throw out false allegations, you have to ignore it and you have to stay focused,” he told CP24.
Asked if he remains part of the mayor’s team, Mr. Ainslie, who is frequently seen at Doug Ford’s side, said he has not heard otherwise. He and the Etobicoke councillor spoke Tuesday evening, he said, but he has not spoken to the mayor since his comments became public.
Councillor Mike Del Grande, the former budget chief, has said Mr. Ainslie’s public comments are “sour grapes” because he was not chosen by the mayor to replace him. Mr. Ainslie said that is not the case. “The mayor made his decision, he said. “I didn’t ask to be budget chair. I didn’t lobby to be budget chair. I would have liked to be budget chair. ... I said I would like to be budget chair if it was offered to me. I didn’t lobby.”