Mayor Ford being investigated by city after putting magnets on cars

The Globe and Mail

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford puts ‘Rob Ford Mayor’ magnets on cars outside an Etobicoke meeting on the Humbertown redevelopment, May 14, 2013. (Justin Fauteux/The Globe and Mail)

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s long-standing habit of handing out business cards and magnets to just about everyone he meets has landed him in a sticky situation, following a resident’s complaint about the mayor affixing the magnets onto parked vehicles.

The city’s licensing department is investigating after the mayor raced out of a meeting on the Humbertown development Tuesday night in Etobicoke to stick the “Rob Ford Mayor” magnets onto the vehicles. He later returned and told the audience he would do whatever he could to stop the development from being built.

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Tammy Robbinson, a city spokeswoman, said it received a complaint from a member of the public Wednesday and is now investigating.

“Our approach will be to follow normal procedure when we receive a complaint. So that’s to contact the complainant and advise that we’ll investigate and take appropriate action,” she said in an interview.

George Christopoulos, the mayor’s press secretary, issued a statement that said the mayor believes he should be accessible to the public, as part of his mandate.

“There is no law prohibiting the mayor from handing out magnets or providing residents with a number to contact him,” he wrote.

But Richard Mucha, the director of licensing, wrote in an e-mail that the complaint involves licensing bylaw 545-313, which prohibits leaving handbills on vehicles.

Mr. Mucha said once a complaint is received the complainant is contacted within 48 hours. An investigating officer then follows up to obtain further information.

He said the department investigates complaints “as expeditiously as possible.”

“If a determination is made that an offence may have been committed, one outcome is to lay a certificate of offence under Chapter 545; fines range from $100 to $150,” he wrote. “Maximum fine amounts for individuals is $25,000.”

Mr. Mucha said the department does have some discretion to decide on appropriate action, such as administering a caution.

This is not the first time a resident has filed a complaint about Mayor Ford’s conduct.

Toronto’s leader stayed in office after winning an appeal of a conflict-of-interest conviction, based on a citizen’s complaint that involved improper donations to his football foundation.

He also escaped punishment after a compliance audit, again sparked by a resident’s complaint, found he overspent the authorized limit in his 2010 campaign.

And a local artist filed a complaint against the mayor in March regarding letters sent from the mayor’s football foundation to registered lobbyists.

When asked about the magnets, Councillor David Shiner said the lengths to which the mayor will allow constituents to reach him is “quite unique.”

“It just speaks to what Rob is like,” he said.

Councillor Shiner added: “No one else who puts junk on someone’s car or puts flyers on someone’s car leaves their home number,” he said. “If they don’t like what he is doing, they can call him at home and tell him directly.”

Councillor Michelle Berardinetti said she, however, didn’t support the mayor’s actions.

She said she is careful to respect homeowners when she distributes flyers by placing them only in mailboxes and skipping houses with “no flyer” signs.

“I would perceive that to be litter,” she said, comparing it to advertisements drivers sometimes find placed on cars in mall parking lots.