Two more top aides have departed from the office of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford as the city’s troubled leader continues to battle allegations that he was caught on video using crack cocaine.
The mayor’s press secretary George Christopoulos and his assistant, Isaac Ransom, both resigned Monday, sources in the mayor’s office confirmed.
Mr. Ford told a scrum of journalists outside his office that the pair had “decided to go … down a different avenue.” He said he was told of their departures around noon.
“I wish them the best of luck in their future endeavours and I want to thank them for working hard in this office,” he said, flanked by his brother Councillor Doug Ford.
Mr. Ford declined to say why Mr. Christopoulos and Mr. Ransom had quit, but said he never wants to “hold anyone back from moving on for future endeavours or opportunities that they may have.”
Mr. Ford announced that Amin Massoudi, Doug’s executive assistant, had agreed to become his new communications director. An earlier statement said Sunny Petrujkic would be interim press secretary.
The mayor also responded to a Globe and Mail report that a senior member of his office was interviewed by police last week about a tip linking the alleged crack video to a recent Toronto homicide.
“Everything’s fine. I have no idea what the police are investigating,” Mr. Ford said.
Before his scrum and statement, Mr. Ford walked into an area where his staff have their offices. He was accompanied by city manager Joe Pennachetti as well as the head of security. After several minutes in the staff area, the mayor returned to his office.
Mr. Christopoulos and Mr. Ransom had already had left city hall, sources told The Globe and Mail, so were not escorted out by security as happened last week when the Mayor’s chief of staff Mark Towhey was fired.
Mr. Towhey took to Twitter just minutes after news broke of the departures, saying they are “outstanding, honest & honorable professionals for whom I have enormous respect.”
Mr. Towhey was fired on Thursday after telling Mr. Ford that seeking help for his addiction was the only one way out of the mounting scandal, sources told The Globe. It has not been established that Mr. Ford has an addiction.
Mr. Towhey made the demand as pressure mounted on Mr. Ford to respond to reports of a video allegedly showing him smoking crack cocaine, a source said. The plan was to quietly put the mayor on a plane to a rehab centre and issue a statement after he was gone.
After a week of near-silence, Mr. Ford addressed allegations that he used crack cocaine in a brief statement to reporters on Friday.
“I do not use crack cocaine, nor am I an addict of crack cocaine,” he said. “I cannot comment on a video that I have never seen or does not exist.”
On Sunday, Mr. Ford went further, saying: “There’s no video, so that’s all I can say. You can’t comment on something that doesn’t exist.” He also called Toronto media “a bunch of maggots.”
During his scrum on Monday, Mr. Ford apologized to journalists for “a derogatory comment” he used on his radio show.
“I’m sure you understand that this has been a very stressful week for myself and my family but that doesn’t justify using the terminology I did,” he said.