Mayor Rob Ford’s vow to crack down on a city worker allegedly caught slacking has made him a target for questions about his own work ethic.
A picture circulated Wednesday of a North York community centre employee, head down on a desk, prompted Mr. Ford to hold an impromptu news conference to announce he would be asking for the employee – and the manager – to be sacked if in fact there was snoozing on the job.
By Thursday morning, a picture of Mr. Ford, his eyes shut and sitting at his post as chair of the city’s executive committee, was making the rounds online, along with cracks about the mayor’s own work habits. But Mr. Ford – who arrived at city hall at 12:30 p.m. Thursday – called the comparison between the pictures “ridiculous.”
“It’s so far-fetched it makes me laugh,” Mr. Ford said when stopped in the City Hall lobby on his way back from the cafeteria, where he bought a vegetarian curry lunch to go.
“I’m not sleeping,” he said when shown the picture on a cellphone, taken during an all-night executive session in 2011. “You know what – this is ridiculous. It’s so far-fetched it’s not even funny,” he said, adding, “Oh buddy, that’s not how I sleep.”
Adam Vaughan, a frequent critic of Mr. Ford, said the mayor’s comments show a double standard.
“If he wants a work ethic stepped up and improved, he might look in the mirror,” Mr. Vaughan said. “He’s never here and when he shows up, he shows up late.”
Mr. Ford, unlike many public leaders, does not release his schedule. His official datebook and parking records, obtained by The Globe and Mail through freedom of information [FOI] requests, show the mayor usually does not come to the office before mid-morning on days when council or his executive are not in session. Mr. Ford also was criticized last year for leaving meetings to coach high-school football. During last year’s season, he regularly left city hall around 3 p.m.
On Thursday, Mr. Ford arrived at City Hall after noon using a back entrance. A spokesman for his office said the mayor had been making “constituency visits,” but walked away when asked to provide details.
Mr. Ford defended his work habits, challenging a reporter who questioned his whereabouts to a bet. “I was all over the place this morning,” he said. “l’ll make a bet if you don’t believe me. Take your cash.”
Asked why he won’t notify the media of his official itinerary, he responded: “You get it all. You get it all. You get it all. … At the end of the day you guys FOI, I give it to you. … I have nothing to hide.”
Mr. Ford makes it a point of pride to give out his office number, return every call, and make house calls to residents who ask for his help. He was doing just that Thursday morning, he said, attending to a tree problem in Ward 11 and “a licensing and standards and a flooding issue” in Ward 4, where he lives.
“Yeah, I was busy,” he said.
As for the employee who was allegedly napping at his desk, Mr. Ford said he is still waiting for answers. “I am looking into this,” he said. “We can’t have people sleeping on the job.”