The Ontario Provincial Police says the Toronto Police investigation of Rob Ford is at a standstill, sparking a public disagreement between the two forces and a declaration from the mayor that he has been cleared.
At city hall on Thursday, councillors said it will be up to voters to decide whether they are ready to look past the mayor’s admissions of illegal drug use and other allegations, including the latest police revelation that a street gang feared violent reprisals from Mr. Ford’s friend Alessandro Lisi if a video allegedly showing the mayor smoking crack cocaine was made public.
The OPP said it has withdrawn from overseeing the high-profile investigation of the mayor because of a lack of new information. However, Toronto Police maintain the case, dubbed Project Brazen 2, is active and say detectives have had very little interaction with the OPP.
“Our investigation is still ongoing, and so the comment about the withdrawal is confusing to me because it’s a bit of a disconnect,” the lead Toronto Police investigator, Detective Sergeant Gary Giroux, said in an interview on Thursday. “I certainly haven’t heard that they’re no longer engaged.”
Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair asked the OPP to assume an oversight role a month ago in a bid to defuse criticism that Toronto’s investigation was politically motivated. That effort is now mired in confusion, and Toronto Police have not received official notification that the OPP has ceded its role, spokesman Mark Pugash said.
Mr. Ford claimed he had been cleared, a refrain likely to be repeated as he campaigns for re-election in October.
“I know I did nothing wrong. I knew the day was going to come that I’d be cleared, and I guess today’s the day,” he told reporters in a scrum.
The mayor’s leading rivals, Olivia Chow and John Tory, have pointed to the scandals involving Mr. Ford as reasons not to vote for him – with Mr. Tory releasing a personal “code of conduct” on Thursday and describing the mayor’s behaviour as “disgraceful and disrespectful.”
Several of Mr. Ford’s colleagues on council doubt the OPP revelation is enough to clear his name in the minds of some voters.
“I think he wishes he were cleared and everything was clear,” Councillor Paula Fletcher said. “What’s clear is that he was smoking crack, he was taking drugs, he was drinking and driving, and probably using the most vulgar language any mayor has used about his wife here at city hall, and that he’s lied consistently. Those aren’t court issues. They weren’t made court issues, but the court of public opinion will have its day on Oct. 27.”
Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, a former ally of the mayor who has become an outspoken critic of his behaviour, said the issue will be decided at the ballot box.
“The mayor admitted smoking crack cocaine. In the minds of many voters, that’s not the type of mayor that they want.”
Police began investigating Mr. Ford after reports last May about the video allegedly showing him smoking crack cocaine.
Councillors said on Thursday they stood by their decision to strip the mayor of many of his powers after he admitted smoking crack in a drunken stupor, buying illegal drugs while in office and driving after drinking.
“Given the opportunity to do it again, I would do the same thing,” said Councillor Michael Thompson, vice-chair of the police services board. “It is inappropriate behaviour, so whether or not that led to any criminal charges, the behaviour still has to stand on its own.”
OPP Detective-Inspector Chris Nicholas, assigned to oversee Toronto’s investigation, determined that there is “no further role” for the provincial force, spokesman Sergeant Pierre Chamberland said.
“Everything that was there when we were called in was already before the courts in some way, shape or form, so therefore there was nothing for us to do and there was no new information,” Sgt. Chamberland said. “If anything new does come forward, and we’re requested, then we’ll look at it.”
However, a Toronto Police source said that, although Det.-Insp. Nicholas has been briefed at a high level on Project Brazen 2, he was not familiar with all the details of the thousands of pages of evidence.
Det. Sgt. Giroux said he has not had “any direct involvement” with the OPP, saying the provincial force’s mandate, as he understands it, is to get involved if information arises relating to possible new charges.
“It’s not an investigative review, but it’s going forward in relation to a determination as to whether or not there may or may not be any charges in relation to any other parties. So I’m not aware that they’re out, put it that way,” he said.
Asked about Mr. Ford’s statement that he has been cleared, Det. Sgt. Giroux said: “I wouldn’t say it’s accurate because the fact is that my investigation is still ongoing.”
Neither Det. Sgt. Giroux nor Sgt. Chamberland would comment on a report that there was a difference of opinion between Toronto Police and the OPP about who was the victim of an alleged extortion involving the video. Mr. Lisi has been charged with extortion in connection with alleged attempts to retrieve it.
Asked about a report that the Crown has advised there is a lack of evidence to pursue the Ford investigation, Attorney-General spokesman Brendan Crawley said such a decision is up to police.
“Police are responsible for investigating and laying criminal charges, and it is police who decide whether an investigation will continue or be concluded,” he said in an e-mail.
With a report from Renata D’Aliesio.