Toronto Mayor Rob Ford breached the public trust when he and his brother, Councillor Doug Ford, helped a prominent printing firm lobby city staff for contracts without disclosing that the Ford family label company was also trying to do business with the printing firm, said Mr. Ford’s two main rivals in the municipal election.
“I think it’s an inappropriate mixing of public and private business,” John Tory said. “This is just one more example of conduct that led me to suggest he should resign.”
Olivia Chow said “it’s hard to say” which is more disturbing, the mayor’s admitted drug use or revelations that he may have been abusing his elected office for personal gain.
“This is about his judgment. His behaviour. Misusing his public office – which is a trust the good citizens of Toronto have given him – to help his own business,” Ms. Chow said.
“It’s not acceptable, not appropriate, and it’s definitely not ethical.”
Neither the mayor nor Doug Ford responded to questions about the relationship their family business, Deco Labels and Tags, has with RR Donnelley and Sons, one of the largest commercial printers in the world.
A representative for Donnelley also declined to comment.
Three years ago, about six months into his term, Mayor Ford and his brother met with six officials from Donnelley Canada who were interested in acquiring a piece of the City of Toronto’s $9-million printing operation. At the mayor’s request, the city’s director of purchasing at the time, Lou Pagano, met with Donnelley representatives and the Ford brothers in the mayor’s office.
The city owns printing presses and high-speed copiers. At the time, the Ford administration had launched its “core service review” to find efficiencies. Donnelley officials said they had ideas about how to reduce printing costs.
“They also said that perhaps the city should consider outsourcing all the printing. Councillor Ford seemed to agree with them on that,” Mr. Pagano wrote in an e-mail shortly after the meeting.
Mr. Pagano once again met with Donnelley representatives at the mayor’s insistence. At the meeting, he informed the company about the city’s standardized protocol for submitting what is known as an unsolicited proposal. The process requires companies to submit their plan online, for transparency and fairness. It’s made to ensure that companies with access to particular civil servants or councillors do not have an unfair advantage.
What no one in the civil service was told during these meetings was that the Ford family business was in talks with Donnelley about referring clients to Deco. Donnelley officials went on a tour of the Deco plant around the same time the meetings at City Hall were taking place.
Deco’s relationship with Donnelley was detailed to The Globe and Mail by Leonard Rudner, the vice-president of sales and marketing for the Ford family’s label business from 2010 to 2011.
For Ms. Chow, the circumstances hark back to the days of the MFP computer-leasing scandal, when a $43-million contract nearly doubled without council approval. An inquiry later found that inappropriate relationships between councillors and business people were partly to blame.
“Again, it is misusing public office to help [the Fords’] business,” she said.
After the MFP inquiry, which wrapped up in 2005, Queen’s Park passed the City of Toronto Act, which established an integrity commissioner and a code of conduct for members of council. The Code includes a section on “improper use of influence,” which prohibits the “use of one’s status as a member of Council to improperly influence the decision of another person to the private advantage” of the politician, family members or business interests.”
John Lorinc is a freelance writer.
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