Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and his councillor brother Doug Ford helped one of the world’s largest commercial printers, RR Donnelley and Sons, lobby city staff about taking over part of the city’s printing operations around the same time the Ford family’s label business was negotiating to accept business referrals from Donnelley, a Globe and Mail investigation has found.
In June, 2011, Mayor Ford and his brother met with six officials from Donnelley Canada who were urging city staff to hand their company part of Toronto’s $9-million printing operation. No one in the civil service was told that Donnelley – a Chicago-based Fortune 500 company – around that time was arranging to refer clients to the Ford family business, Deco Labels and Tags.
The relationship between Donnelley and Deco was detailed to Globe reporters in interviews by Leonard Rudner – who was a vice-president of sales and marketing for the Ford family’s label business from 2010 to 2011. Mr. Rudner, a veteran label-industry executive, agreed to speak publicly on what he knew about the Fords’ intermingling of their private business interests with their duties as elected officials because he was offended by a tape-recorded conversation reproduced in the Toronto Star in which Mayor Ford reportedly made an anti-Semitic remark.
Mr. Rudner, who is Jewish, said he was particularly upset with Councillor Ford, his former employer at Deco, and his unwillingness to disavow that remark publicly, or any of the other slurs the mayor is alleged to have used to describe black people, Italians, gays and Pakistanis.
“He’s defending his brother, irrespective of what he does,” Mr. Rudner said. “Doug is the biggest disappointment to me.”
In his interviews with The Globe, Mr. Rudner detailed his roller coaster ride with the Ford family after he was hired to oversee the sales side of Deco in May, 2010, as the Fords planned their rise to power: how Doug Ford spoke openly about his plans to be premier of Ontario; how Doug Ford promised to introduce Mr. Rudner “to every CEO in the city” after he and his brother were elected; how shocked Mr. Rudner was that Toronto voters did not recognize Rob Ford’s many failings during the 2010 campaign, which was largely run out of Deco’s offices and offered Mr. Rudner a fly-on-the-wall vantage.
But most significantly, Mr. Rudner, 76, has pulled back the curtain on Deco Labels and Tags, revealing a portrait of two brothers who have eagerly engaged with clients and potential clients of their family business while serving in their capacity as elected officials.
The revelation that the mayor and Councillor Ford tried to help a potential business partner secure a city contract comes just weeks after The Globe revealed that the Fords repeatedly intervened with city staff on behalf of another major client of their label business. In 2011, the Fords arranged meetings with the most powerful bureaucrats in the city in an effort to help Apollo Health and Beauty Care, a beauty products company for which Deco has made labels, obtain a $2.5-million property tax grant, a stop sign designation and assistance with a building permit. The Fords’ advocacy on behalf of Apollo has sparked several complaints to Toronto’s Integrity Commissioner.
The Globe has cross-referenced Mr. Rudner’s story with documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and found that the Donnelley official who lobbied the Fords and city staff also was negotiating a deal to pass on business to Deco.
Councillor Ford declined to respond to a list of questions. When reached by phone and asked about Donnelley, he hung up. Donnelley, which is publicly traded on the Nasdaq and posted revenue of $10.5-billion in its last fiscal year, declined to respond to questions. “We have no information to share in response to your questions,” a spokeswoman said in an e-mailed statement.