Rob Ford’s parking records show he is spending less time at City Hall than a year ago, a sign the mayor is choosing to log fewer traditional office hours.
The records, obtained by The Globe and Mail through a freedom of information request, show the number of hours the mayor’s vehicle was at City Hall dropped sharply from early 2012 to the summer, a trend that has continued into 2013. In January, 2012, the mayor’s vehicle typically arrived before 10 a.m., and he often left the parking lot around 7 p.m.; this January, on days when there were no council or executive meetings, his trademark SUV did not pull in until noon or 1 p.m. and it often drove out mid-afternoon.
The data obtained by The Globe does not account for the times the mayor may have received rides or taken cabs to or from work, teleconferenced or, in the case of the Chicago trade mission, worked outside of the office for days at a time. On several days the mayor is recorded as going into the parking lot but not out, or vice-versa.
Mayor Ford has been vocal about preferring to drive himself to work and has refused to hire a driver.
Councillor Doug Ford said Friday that the mayor, his brother, used to spend more time in the office earlier in his term because he was new to the job. Now that things are in place, he can devote more of his time to duties outside City Hall, he said.
“I think when you are down here the first six months you are down here keeping an eye, making sure things are organized, then you have your people in place and you move,” he said. “You guys are questioning his work ethic, and I know this guy works like a son of a gun.”
The mayor has said he works from the crack of dawn and is frequently out of his office meeting with constituents, a stance he reiterated at City Hall Friday. “I spend a lot of time down here. I spend a lot of time helping a lot of people out,” Rob Ford said before stepping onto an elevator.
Because the mayor does not make his schedule public, the parking records – which run from Jan. 1, 2012, to Feb. 23, 2013 – provide a glimpse of how much time he spends at City Hall. Between January, 2012, and February, 2013, excluding days when there was council or executive, the mayor was parked at City Hall for an average of 31/2 hours a day. The longest stretches he was parked there were in January, 2012, when he averaged more than five hours a day, typically arriving before 10 a.m., leaving at times midday and returning for a few hours late in the afternoon and early evening.
His departure times have changed dramatically. In January, 2012, he almost always left around 7 p.m. Since then, he has left the parking lot earlier and earlier. By September and October, 2012, his vehicle drove out by 3 p.m. and rarely returned. In January, 2013, the records indicate the mayor’s SUV was not at City Hall for more than five hours in a single day unless he had an executive or council meeting. Though he was at City Hall nearly every work day, on at least 11 of those days he was parked for five hours or fewer; on six of those days, it was for three hours or fewer. For at least seven days in February of this year, he was parked at city hall for five hours or fewer.
Councillor Michael Thompson, a member of the mayor’s executive, said the hours Mayor Ford puts in at the office are a reflection of his approach to the job and do not mean he is not working.
“What I know is the mayor is working hard. The mayor is a people’s mayor. His approach to it is simply not about being in the office. He is a more hands-on type of guy,” Mr. Thompson said.
When the parking logs are compared with Mr. Ford’s schedule – also obtained through a freedom of information request – they show the mayor is not one to linger behind his desk. On many days, he checked into the parking lot just minutes before he was scheduled for meetings or events. He often left the lot shortly after meetings were scheduled to be over. On days when council met or he chaired the executive committee, he often arrived with minutes to spare.
The parking records also raise questions about the regular entries in the mayor’s schedule. His official datebook routinely shows 9 a.m. entries of “office/reading/correspondence” and 10 a.m. “Mayor’s daily briefing” on dates when parking records show Mayor Ford did not arrive until after 11 a.m. or did not come to City Hall. Mr. Ford’s office did not reply to questions about the discrepancy.
Councillor Paula Fletcher, a critic of the mayor, said the issue is not the hours he is at City Hall but the fact that he does not make his official schedule public.
While Mayor Ford comes to the office most days, even during the summer, the hours he parked at city hall fell off beginning in August, when most regular city business takes a pause. The hours his vehicle spent parked at city hall per week was at times in the single digits in September, a period that included the beginning of the high school football season, when he coaches. The first week of September also saw Mr. Ford involved in the first of three recent court cases, this one involving conflict of interest charges.