Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair has hit back directly at Councillor Doug Ford over his accusation that the chief had a hand in leaking news that Rob Ford is about to be subpoenaed to testify in the drug and extortion trial of the mayor’s former friend and driver Alessandro Lisi.
Chief Blair, who this week had his request to serve a third five-year term rejected by the Police Services Board, said the Etobicoke councillor is “lying” by suggesting the news of the subpoena was “payback” by the police force that came from the top.
“Doug Ford is lying and I am prepared to take legal action,” Chief Blair said Friday through his spokesman Mark Pugash after he was shown comments made by Doug Ford.
Councillor Ford later said he stood by his comments, saying that the chief must be held accountable for the actions of the force. “He’s the head guy and anything that happens, he is responsible for,” he said.
The Ford brothers’ once-positive relationship with the city’s top cop turned sour over the past year and a half, after police launched an investigation into the mayor after reports of a video showing him smoking what appeared to be crack cocaine. Though the mayor later admitted to having smoked crack cocaine and spent two months in a rehab facility seeking treatment for drug and alcohol abuse, both Mayor Ford and his brother have long maintained the investigation was a political attack and a waste of taxpayers’ money. They’ve accused Chief Blair of having a conflict of interest and being biased, called for his resignation and asked for the Office of the Independent Police Review Director to investigate the chief’s behaviour.
Since he returned from a stint in rehab this summer, the mayor has said he has severed ties with his former associates, including Mr. Lisi. Mr. Lisi faces drug charges and an extortion charge for allegedly attempting to retrieve a video that appeared to show the mayor smoking crack. The mayor has not been charged.
On Friday, after a report in the Toronto Star that the police are poised to subpoena the mayor to testify in the Lisi case, Councillor Ford said the leak shows the political motivation of Chief Blair and is further evidence of the need for a change in leadership at the police force.
“It’s just a little way of him saying ‘here you go,’” Councillor Ford said in an interview. “It’s unfortunate. It’s not the way any police department works in the world and it shouldn’t work that way. They want to play games at the highest level in the police department.
“Rob’s changed his life. I just hope the top-ranking person in the police would change his life and follow the rules,” he said later. “When you tell the media there’s a subpoena and don’t tell anyone else? That alone says it all right there, right there. That says it all.”
He also told reporters the leak was “payback,” but would not elaborate.
Mayor Ford late Friday said he had not been subpoenaed. He refused to discuss the police investigation, preferring to slam spending by Waterfront Toronto and councillors’ expense accounts.
“You know what, this is not even news,” the mayor told reporters outside his office. “ This is not even news. It might be news to you guys. It’s not news to the average taxpayer.”
Mr. Ford took aim at the $337,500 price tag for sand at Sugar Beach, a $14-million Waterfront Toronto project that was largely funded by the federal government. “Spending $14-million on a friggin’ beach. Seriously. On a beach. Give me a break. On a beach,” Mr. Ford said.
Asked about Chief Blair’s threat of legal action, the mayor responded, “I’ve said what I have to say.” Mr. Pugash would not discuss the reports of the subpoena, saying: “We don’t comment on ongoing criminal investigations.”
Councillor Ford said Friday he only learned the mayor might be served through the media. The Star quoted Rob Ford’s lawyer Dennis Morris saying it’s not a matter of if the mayor will get notice, but when.
When contacted by The Globe and Mail Friday, Mr. Morris would not comment on whether a subpoena is coming his client’s way. “If [Detective Sergeant Gary Giroux] wishes to subpoena the mayor, that will occur,” he said.
Det. Sgt. Giroux would not say if or when police will subpoena the mayor, but he confirmed Project Brazen 2 – the high-profile probe into the mayor and his associates – is still active.
He said Mr. Ford has yet to speak with police, adding “there’s still an open invitation.”
With files from Kat Sieniuc