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Brian Johnston is walked throught the office by Mayor Rob Ford and a security person at city hall in Toronto, Ont. Thursday, May 30, 2013. (Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)
Brian Johnston is walked throught the office by Mayor Rob Ford and a security person at city hall in Toronto, Ont. Thursday, May 30, 2013. (Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)

‘I’m not stepping aside’ Toronto Mayor Rob Ford insists Add to ...

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, the embattled leader who has now seen five of his employees depart since he was accused of using crack cocaine, has vowed to remain at Toronto City Hall, guaranteeing his name will be on next year’s election ballot.

Mr. Ford spoke with reporters about the two latest employee resignations Thursday. He spent 90 seconds reading a prepared statement, then about 2 minutes fielding questions, five times swatting away inquiries about the drug scandal with the phrase: “Anything else?”

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The news conference capped what was a frantic, yet familiar, day at city hall. The mayor toured staff offices at several points, just as he did Monday when his press secretary and an assistant both resigned. A crush of journalists once again pressed up against a glass wall to watch the mayor’s tour, and he smiled brightly each step of the way.

“Everything’s going fine,” he said when asked about the city’s reputation, repeating a summary he uttered earlier this week that was met with some derision.

The mayor went on to say he has no plans to resign.

“I’m not stepping aside, I’m running in the next election. If the great people of this city want to go in a different direction, then that’s what their prerogative is, but I guarantee my name will be on the ballot,” he said.

He said he met with each of his staff members – 12 remain – and that they’re a “talented and loyal” group. He said he has already begun interviewing applicants and looks forward to hiring new employees as soon as possible.

The mayor indicated Thursday, as he did when press secretary George Christopoulos and assistant Isaac Ransom both resigned, that he won’t stand in the way if people receive better job opportunities. When asked whether five people coincidentally received better offers during the drug scandal, the mayor said he wouldn’t get into personnel matters.

Mr. Ford has said he does not use crack cocaine and is not an addict.

Councillor Josh Matlow tweeted Thursday that “Toronto needs a new mayor.”

Councillor Karen Stintz, long rumoured to be a mayoral candidate, said in an interview that Mr. Ford “needs to start acting like the mayor or step aside.”

“There is no question that there is great instability in the mayor’s office right now and it is not good for the city, particularly at a time when we have pressing issues like transit and like our budget coming up,” she said.

She said Mr. Ford needs to think about what is good for the city.

“We need a mayor. The business of the city will continue, but we have the position of the mayor for a reason and I think it’s fair to say the mayor is not functioning in that position,” she said.

The employees who resigned Thursday were Brian Johnston, one of the mayor’s policy advisers, and Kia Nejatian, Mr. Ford’s executive assistant.

Mr. Johnston was escorted out the back stairs by security. When asked in the parking lot why he had resigned, he told reporters the timing was right.

Mr. Nejatian did not appear to be at city hall after news of his resignation.

Mark Towhey, the mayor’s former chief of staff who was fired last week after sources say he told the mayor to get help for his alleged addiction, tweeted both Mr. Johnston and Mr. Nejatian were “exceptional young pros with great integrity.”

Ms. Stintz said Mr. Johnston was very professional and worked hard to compromise and resolve issues.

“He was always well read and up to speed on the issues,” she said.

Mr. Johnston studied political science at the University of Western Ontario. A 2011 Globe story described him as a “day-one staffer” who received regular briefings to keep him informed about city departments and Ford policy.

The story said Mr. Johnston was part of a team that would handle calls and requests from constituents, and occasionally meet with them.

Mr. Nejatian’s LinkedIn page said he was Mr. Ford’s director of field organization during the 2010 campaign, before moving to the position of executive assistant.

With reports from Marcus Gee, Jennifer MacMillan and Amber Daugherty

Follow us on Twitter: @TheSunnyDhillon, @lizchurchto

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