Mayor Rob Ford is losing another staff member, but says he has already hired three “movers and shakers,” and has three or four more lined up to join his office on Monday.
Six members of Mr. Ford’s bare-bones office staff have departed in just over a week, including chief of staff Mark Towhey, who was fired for telling the mayor he needed to get help for his addiction, sources close to the administration have told The Globe and Mail.
On Friday, the exodus continued. It was the last day for Michael Prempeh, one of two former University of Toronto football players to join Mr. Ford’s staff last year. The other, Andrew Gillis, left this winter, and Mr. Prempeh, who also works for a Web-based magazine, will focus on that business, sources in the mayor’s office said. Mr. Ford said Mr. Prempeh told him he wanted to leave more than a month ago.
In an unusual late-day news conference in which the mayor sung the praises of a two-year old audit of the city’s public-housing corporation, Mr. Ford was asked about the revolving door at his office.
“I don’t really want to get into personnel issues,” Mr. Ford said, declining to give the names or posts of the new hires. “I have three movers and shakers, people that want to come here, want to work hard. … I am very very proud of the new members.”
Asked about the jobs they will fill, Mr. Ford responded: “Everybody here works for one person – that’s the taxpayer.”
Mr. Ford, who continues to dodge questions about allegations he was caught on video smoking crack cocaine, spent some of Friday showing new hires around the very offices where earlier this week he came with security to usher out staff members who had resigned.
One of the new hires is Katrina Xavier-Ponniah, who recently completed a political-science degree at Mount Allison University and will be a special assistant.
Mr. Ford’s chief of staff was escorted out of city hall by security last week, and on Monday, the mayor’s press secretary and his assistant both left, cleaning out their offices on the weekend and leaving their letters of resignation on Mr. Ford’s desk. They called the mayor in the morning to tell him they were going and were gone by the time Mr. Ford arrived at city hall midday.
On Thursday, two more staff members left – Brian Johnston, one of the mayor’s policy advisers, and Kia Nejatian, Mr. Ford’s executive assistant.
Asked if the six departures are a vote of non-confidence for his office, Mr. Ford followed a practice he started on Thursday, ignoring the question and asking, “Anything else?”
Despite the staff departures and the continuing controversy, Mr. Ford has spent the week emphasizing that it is business as usual at city hall. He tried to turn the page again on Friday with a press conference at which he listed improvements made over the past two years to the city’s public-housing agency, but offered nothing new.
“I think that is it. Have a good weekend everyone,” Mr. Ford said when asked if he will take a leave, as some councillors are suggesting, and why he will not answer questions about the video.
With a report from Sunny Dhillon