Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who has seen half a dozen staffers depart since allegations that he used crack cocaine emerged, has welcomed four new employees to city hall and said he’s still interviewing more.
Mr. Ford, who has said he does not use crack cocaine – and has been fending off probing questions with the response “Anything else?” – could be seen chatting with his new staffers on Monday as they settled in at their desks on their first day. About a dozen journalists watched through a glass wall, a reminder to the new recruits of just how much scrutiny their boss is facing.
The mayor’s young staff appears to be staying that way with the latest hires. The four new employees – Rob Krauss, Katrina Xavier-Ponniah, Victoria Colussi, and Jonathan Kent – will serve as special assistants, an entry-level position that focuses on taking calls from constituents.
Three of the new hires declined to answer questions when approached by a pair of reporters and refused even to give their names. They referred all inquiries to the mayor’s press secretary.
The mayor briefly spoke with reporters as he entered his office and said he plans to hire more staff. He did not provide further details or speak with reporters at the end of the day.
The drug allegations against the mayor surfaced in mid-May, when a journalist with the U.S. website Gawker said he had seen a video of Mr. Ford smoking crack cocaine. The Toronto Star later said two of its journalists also saw the video. The mayor has said no video exists.
Of the new hires, Mr. Krauss appears to be the most politically active. His LinkedIn page says he has been an assistant to Doug Ford, the mayor’s brother, since November. The page says he has answered up to 75 phone calls and e-mails a day, and conducted research for the the Fords’ radio show. Mr. Krauss’s Facebook page features a photo of him with federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, and his LinkedIn page says he has campaigned for Labour Minister Lisa Raitt.
Ms. Xavier-Ponniah recently completed a political science degree at Mount Allison University and has interned at a law office.
A LinkedIn page for Victoria Colussi says she obtained a theatre degree from McMaster University, and a broadcast journalism certificate from Seneca College.
A LinkedIn page for Jonathan Kent says he was previously a financial security adviser.
Mark Towhey was fired as Mr. Ford’s chief of staff on May 23 because he told the mayor to get help with his addiction, a source said.
A few days later, press secretary George Christopoulos, and his aide, Isaac Ransom, resigned. A source said the decision was made “on principle.”
Policy adviser Brian Johnston and executive assistant Kia Nejatian resigned on May 30. Mr. Johnston said the timing was right. Mr. Nejatian has not commented.
Special assistant Michael Prempeh resigned on May 31, although the mayor said he had been planning to leave for more than a month.
Thomas Beyer, previously a special assistant, has been promoted to executive assistant.
Earl Provost, the director of stakeholder and council relations, was named acting chief of staff after Mr. Towhey’s departure. Sanjin Petrujkic, a senior policy adviser and director of council affairs, has taken on the role of press secretary. And Amin Massoudi moved from Councillor Doug Ford’s office to become a communications assistant to the mayor.
With the drug allegations against the mayor now more than two weeks old, and Mr. Ford refusing to address the matter further, Monday was a relatively quiet day at City Hall.
However, some councillors again called on the mayor to provide a better explanation.
Councillor John Parker said the mayor can expect to be asked about the allegations until he further opens up.
“Until there are answers, the questions will continue to come,” he said.
With reports from Elizabeth Church and Stephanie Chambers