A key piece of evidence has surfaced linking Mayor Rob Ford’s office to efforts to influence the appointment of the members to five civic agencies, including the police board, backing up the findings of a recent controversial report by the city’s ombudsman.
The report, which was at the centre of an acrimonious day-long debate at council earlier this month, concluded that the mayor’s staff interfered in the civic appointments process. That finding, and the motives of the ombudsman herself, were attacked by several of the mayor’s allies, including Councillor Doug Ford who said it was based on “hearsay evidence.”
In response, ombudsman Fiona Crean told council that her findings were based on statements from more than 40 witnesses under oath and followed a significant paper trail.
The one piece of paper she did not have was a widely discussed list of preferred candidates, which witnesses said was given to the mayor’s supporters on council by his staff during a July 18 meeting of the civic appointments committee.
That list has now been found – but the mayor was quick to say Thursday its existence means nothing.
When asked about the list by The Globe and Mail at a football game he was coaching for the Don Bosco Eagles, he said: "There was no list. I've said that from day one. Any list, I would like to see it."
New evidence shows that on the very day Ms. Crean was being grilled on her findings at council, support staff in the city manager’s office found a document with a list of names and agencies.
The single-page list includes the names of applicants for the Library Board, Toronto Port Authority, Toronto Police Services Board, Toronto Parking Authority and the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, a follow-up report made public Thursday states.
Ms. Crean finds the document was missed during previous searches because it was titled “list from the Mayor’s office” and made no mention of civic appointments. The ombudsman was notified of its existence the next day.
“While the timing of the document’s discovery is unfortunate, it is my view that the (city manager’s office) conduct in this matter has been blameless,” she concludes.
Its existence, Ms. Crean said, does not alter the outcome of her investigation.
In a separate report released Thursday, the ombudsman concluded that the Toronto Transit Commission blindsided residents of an East York street as the transit agency prepared to build new exits at two subway stations.
The TTC waited more than six years before it told four homeowners in mid-2010 that it was considering bulldozing their properties to make way for second exits at Donlands and Greenwood stations on the Bloor-Danforth line.
The news also caught off guard other residents of Strathmore Boulevard, whose yards the TTC wanted to encroach upon.
Two of the four homeowners only learned their properties were targeted for expropriation when the TTC mailed a general flyer around the neighbourhood.
“It [the TTC] did not initiate face-to-face contact with any of the four property owners prior to the first public meeting,” the report says. “Subsequently, the TTC failed to notify a fifth property owner that it planned to acquire his home in advance of the second public meeting at which it revealed these plans.”
Ms. Crean also concluded that the TTC yielded for the Greenwood community, but refused to budge for those living around Donlands station, ignoring the advice of independent experts the TTC hired to explore alternatives to their original second exit plan.
The report reveals that the TTC is still working on the second exits project. It approved the construction budget in January without informing residents, Ms. Crean found.
The TTC said in a statement Thursday that the second exits at Greenwood and Danforth are “on hold.”
The agency intends to meet with the community to update them soon.
“The TTC accepts and agrees with the Ombudsman’s recommendations and acknowledges, without reservation, that these projects were not handled well by staff on two counts: community outreach, consultation and explanations about the technical and engineering decisions made by staff; and how the TTC communicated with residents whose properties were most affected,” the agency said in its statement.