The night before he was fired as Mayor Rob Ford’s chief of staff, Mark Towhey issued a “direct order” to his employees: Don’t talk to the mayor.
That e-mail, sent at 5:18 p.m. on May 22 is one of a handful of exchanges among the mayor’s staff that point to the turmoil in Mr. Ford’s office in the days that followed allegations that the mayor had been purportedly caught on video smoking crack cocaine. While reporters spent hours in front of the mayor’s office and some members of Mr. Ford’s own executive committee were demanding answers, Mr. Towhey’s message provides a rare glimpse at what was taking place behind closed doors.
The e-mail, part of the first wave of documents sought by The Globe and Mail under a freedom of information request, was among those of former staffer Brian Johnston. It was sent just hours after Mr. Ford was informed by school board officials that he was banned from his high school coaching duties at Don Bosco. It also was one week after the crack allegations surfaced.
Under the heading “Direct Order,” Mr. Towhey, a former member of the Canadian military, wrote three brief sentences.
“Do not answer calls from the mayor tonight.
Take the night off.
Will explain in the AM.”
In a final sentence, he asks three senior staff members, Earl Provost, George Christopoulos and David Price to call him.
After he was informed he could no longer coach, Mr. Ford began organizing a pizza party for Don Bosco players at his home, sources in the mayor’s office familiar with that day have told The Globe and Mail. Mr. Towhey did not want staff to be involved in organizing the event, those sources say, although at least one staff member – Mr. Price – was present at the mayor’s house for the party. At some point that day, Mr. Towhey issued an ultimatum to the mayor, telling him, to “go away and get help,” or he could no long work for him, sources close to the Ford administration have told The Globe.
Just before 2 p.m. the next day, Mr. Towhey was escorted out of city hall by security, telling reporters, “I am no longer the chief of staff. I did not resign.”
A few minutes later, at 2:15, an e-mail was sent to the mayor’s staff by Kia Nejatian, who was then Mr. Ford’s executive assistant and later among several long-serving employees to leave the mayor’s office. “Mandatory staff meeting in the boardroom at 2:30,” it read. At 3:22, staff received a copy of a formal statement “for their records,” which read in part “effective immediately, Mark Towhey is no longer working in the Office of the Mayor.”
The next afternoon Mr. Ford called a news conference in which he said, “I do not use crack cocaine, nor am I an addict of crack cocaine.” He has since denied the existence of the alleged video.
The e-mail records, which are mainly filled with official city documents such as agendas and news releases about spraying for gypsy moths, also show a lighter side of staff members. The day after Mr. Towhey’s firing, a link to a YouTube recording of “Hail to the Chief,” is circulated with instructions to play it when his replacement, Mr. Provost, enters the room.
The next week, The Globe reported that staffer Mr. Price and the mayor’s brother Councillor Doug Ford were involved in the hashish trade in Etobicoke in the 1980s, which the councillor has denied. Mr. Price sent the following e-mail marked **Proprietary** to a colleague, suggesting he was staying away from the throng of press outside the mayor’s office.
“Mayor’s coffee/vanilla on JC’s desk....Don’t wanna cause a ruckus if I bring...” it says.
With files from Greg McArthur