Rob Ford is refusing to let his first significant defeat at council prevent him from dismantling what's left of the Toronto Community Housing Corp.'s beleaguered board.
Instead, Toronto's mayor is asking for the political equivalent of a mulligan.
Mr. Ford has called a rare special meeting of council Wednesday night so he can try again to temporarily install retired councillor Case Ootes as a one-man board until a new slate is appointed.
The unorthodox tactics left the mayor's opponents threatening legal action, and asking what will happen to Canada's largest public housing agency if Mr. Ford's ally is put in charge, even for a month.
"This is reprehensible," Councillor Pam McConnell said. "It's the Mayor overriding the rules of council ... it's unprecedented. I've been in [council]since before amalgamation. No mayor has done this."
Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday countered that left-leaning councillors should simply have voted to deal with the TCHC matter Tuesday, rather than trying to punt it forward a few weeks.
"They're overlooking the fact that irregularities have taken place that have been strongly objected to by the auditor and strongly objected to by the general public, including [TCHC]tenants ... but they're more interested in trying to score a political victory here and defeat the mayor's agenda."
The TCHC has been in turmoil since Feb. 28, when the city's auditor-general released a pair of reports eviscerating the corporation for lavish spending and sloppy purchasing practices.
The mayor asked all 13 members of the board to resign the same day. Seven citizen members eventually agreed, as did two council appointees. But the remaining two councillors and two tenant representatives have refused to bow to the mayor's demand, which led Mr. Holyday to move a motion Tuesday asking council to formally dismantle the board and replace it with an "interim managing director" - Mr. Ootes, leader of the mayor's transition team.
As a notice of motion, Mr. Holyday's item needed the support of two-thirds of members to make it to the council floor without first being debated by the executive committee.
Only 26 of the 42 councillors present voted in favour of skipping that step, meaning the motion should have been punted to the executive committee's next scheduled meeting March 21.
However, the mayor's brother, Councillor Doug Ford, made it clear after the vote that the administration intended to find another way to dump the board.
"I think it's pretty disgusting that they [left-leaning councillors]don't want to move forward and hold people accountable," he said.
The mayor, meanwhile, avoided reporters and didn't address council.
His only public comments came via Twitter. "It's unfortunate some councillors don't want to discuss accountability at the TCHC," he tweeted.
Before noon Tuesday, the mayor's backup plan began to take shape.
Providing the requisite 24-hours notice, Mr. Ford officially called a special meeting of his hand-picked executive committee for 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.
If the plan were endorsed, Mr. Ford would then need only a simple majority at the special meeting of council he was expected to call for Thursday.
But there was a speed bump: At executive meetings, members of the public are allowed to make five-minute speeches, as are non-member councillors.
Councillor Gord Perks said "dozens" of tenants immediately signed up to speak at the special executive meeting.
"It would be easy for these people or anybody to come in and filibuster the meeting and never let us complete our business," Mr. Holyday said.
The mayor's office pivoted, cancelled the executive meeting and tacked a "special" session of council on to the end of Wednesday's regular meeting at which point the mayor could reintroduce the TCHC item as new business requiring only a simple majority, not a two-thirds supermajority.
An ongoing meeting of city council descended into chaos when written word of the mayor's new plan circulated around 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.
"It's disgusting," Mr. Perks cried before storming out of the chambers.
A member of the city clerk's staff later confirmed Mr. Ford's plan was within the rules.
In the meantime, the TCHC's board can still function with only four of 13 members, according to TCHC spokesman Kyle Rooks. Based on the current number of directors, quorum is three, he said.
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