Gala snub underscores growing tension between Rob Ford, Toronto police chief

The Globe and Mail

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford heads out of his office early Monday morning on Nov. 04, 2013. (Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail)

A public dispute between the offices of Toronto’s mayor and its police chief over an invitation to a gala underscores the tense standoff between Rob Ford and Bill Blair since the chief revealed his force had discovered the alleged crack video.

The disagreement between the two offices emerged Monday amid renewed calls from the mayor and his brother, Councillor Doug Ford, for Chief Blair to release the video. Mr. Ford’s lawyer, Dennis Morris, told The Globe and Mail that the mayor intends to make the video public “whatever way we can.” Mr. Morris said he intended to pursue an application under the Freedom of Information Act.

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The public feud has since been overshadowed by the Mayor`s bombshell admission Tuesday afternoon that he has indeed smoked crack cocaine.

Mr. Ford had been invited to Chief Blair’s annual gala, which the mayor was scheduled to attend as a head-table guest. Sources in the mayor’s office said the chief of staff received a phone call Friday from the event’s co-chair retracting the mayor’s invitation to the fundraising party. The mayor’s event planner responded via an e-mail, obtained by The Globe, indicating the mayor would not attend.

“I have just been informed by the Chief of Staff that the invitation to attend has been retracted by you,” the e-mail stated. “This is to confirm that the mayor will not be attending.”

Police confirmed that an organizer of the chief’s gala had raised concerns about the mayor’s attendance, but insisted Mr. Ford was not being snubbed. Brian Moniz, a police manager who is co-chair of the gala, issued a statement saying:

“Last Friday, I called the mayor’s chief of staff to discuss the mayor’s attendance at the gala. As soon as I started talking about the optics, the chief of staff said, ‘I understand,’ and the conversation ended. At no time was the mayor ‘uninvited.’”

Police have for days been seeking a different kind of audience with Mr. Ford. Detective Sergeant Gary Giroux said Friday he had put a request into the mayor’s chief of staff for an interview. The request had been unheeded, Det. Sgt. Giroux told reporters outside the courthouse where the mayor’s friend and occasional driver, Alessandro Lisi, was granted bail on a charge of extortion. The charge involved alleged attempts to retrieve the video, sources have told The Globe.

Mr. Morris reiterated Monday that the mayor will not be responding to requests from police for a meeting. The lawyer said it is not in Mr. Ford’s interest to speak with officers investigating a video that allegedly shows him smoking crack cocaine.

“He’s got nothing to say,” Mr. Morris said. “It’s very prudent not to have your client say anything about anything ever to the police because they have investigative techniques that throw overboard anything you wish to say or not to say.”

Councillor John Parker, the deputy speaker on council and a conservative ally of the mayor, said it is “shocking” that the mayor of the city is not co-operating with police.

“If the police think he has information that is useful in a criminal matter, he must respond to their invitation to meet with them and answer their questions,” he said.

“The failure of the mayor to do that is alarming in the extreme. He is the mayor of the City of Toronto. He cannot bob and weave with the police.”

Last week, Chief Blair said officers had recovered a video showing the mayor that is consistent with recordings first reported by U.S. website Gawker and the Toronto Star in May, adding he was “disappointed” by it. He said he would not release it because it is part of the ongoing court case against Mr. Lisi.

Mr. Ford repeated on Monday the demand that he made on his radio show Sunday, that the video be made public.

“I want everyone to see what I see at the same time, let’s put it out there and I will comment on it and I’ll let the people judge for themselves,” Mr. Ford said on AM 640.

The mayor apologized to Torontonians Sunday for two incidents of public drunkenness, saying he felt “embarrassed” about his actions. However, Monday he struck a more confident tone, challenging members on his executive committee to leave if they didn’t like what he had to say. He told AM640: “I’ll be running the ship even if it’s by myself.”

Mr. Morris raised the possibility of Mr. Lisi’s lawyer consenting to releasing the video.

“I haven’t been in touch with Mr. Lisi’s lawyer, so it’s not something I can tell you about right now,” he said.

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