What employees told police about working for Rob Ford

The Globe and Mail

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford lashes back at a city councillor on Nov. 14, 2013. (MOE DOIRON/THE GLOBE AND MAIL)

One employee told police he was asked to buy Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s alcohol, sometimes as often as twice a week and usually between the hours of 4 and 6 p.m. Another was allegedly asked to pick up the mayor’s dry cleaning, change batteries in his children’s toys and buy laundry detergent and Diet Coke for his wife. There were also allegations of staff being tasked with prepping a pizza party for football players the mayor had coached.

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Incidents such as these, detailed in newly released portions of a police document, caused the mayor’s former chief of staff, Mark Towhey, to suggest his boss hire a personal assistant to “do these errands and pay them out of his own pocket.” In his interview with police, former mayoral aide Isaac Ransom put it this way: “Staffers would do personal errands for Mayor FORD.”

The 474-page affidavit also outlines allegations that the mayor verbally and physically abused employees, one time allegedly charging at a staffer.

In a dramatic city council session this week, about a week after the mayor admitted he had smoked crack cocaine, Mr. Ford said he is not sure whether he has breached the city’s Code of Conduct for Members of Council. The code says no councillor should use staff or other resources for activities other than city business, and lists among its four “key statements” the duty to arrange private affairs in a manner that promotes public confidence and withstands scrutiny.

In the section entitled “Discreditable Conduct,” the code also says that “all members of Council have a duty to treat members of the public, one another, and staff appropriately and without abuse, bullying or intimidation, and to ensure that their work environment is free from discrimination and harassment.”

What follows is a snapshot of what former staffers told police about their boss’s alleged behaviour:

ALCOHOL, MARIJUANA AT THE OFFICE

Mr. Ransom told police he arrived at the mayor’s office on St. Patrick’s Day, 2012, and found his boss early that evening drinking vodka straight from the bottle. Mr. Ford had finished half the 40-ounce bottle and was “totally out of it.” He ended up partying until the early hours of the morning, beginning in his City Hall office before relocating to a downtown Toronto pub and then back to his office.

Kia Nejatian, a former junior staffer, told police he had seen empty alcohol bottles in the mayor’s office, including a mickey of vodka in his desk drawer. Mr. Nejatian also told police he once discovered an unlit marijuana cigarette in Mr. Ford’s desk drawer when he went into the office after lunch one day to retrieve a file. But when he checked back four or five days later, the joint was gone. He told police he had never smelled marijuana at the mayor’s house or in his car.

PHYSICAL AND VERBAL ABUSE

During the St. Patrick’s Day party in 2012, Mr. Ford allegedly became “mean spirited” with a couple of staff members in his office after they prevented him from going outside the mayor’s office at City Hall to smoke marijuana or hashish, according to Mr. Ransom. Mr. Ford shoved Earl Provost, who is now serving as the mayor’s chief of staff and was not interviewed by police, into a wall at the main entrance of his office, Mr. Ransom told police. When staff tried to pull the mayor off, he charged at Brooks Barnett, another former staffer, Mr. Ransom said.

Mr. Ford also once cocked his fist at Chris Fickel, a former staffer, while they were in the mayor’s car together. Mr. Fickel told police he feels the mayor may have been “joking around” when he raised his fist. But he also told police that his boss belittled him in front of others.

SEXUAL HARASSMENT

Mayor Ford is accused of making sexually explicit comments to two women – a staffer in his office and a security guard at City Hall. Both of the alleged incidents happened on the same evening – St. Patrick’s Day, 2012, while Mr. Ford was partying. Late in the evening, when the mayor and his entourage were back at City Hall, Mr. Ransom told police, Mr. Ford made sexually explicit comments to a female staffer.

The staffer has denied Mr. Ransom’s account. “Mayor Ford has never made comments of that nature to me,” she said in an e-mail to The Globe and Mail. “I was not present at the time the alleged comments were made and I was unaware of them.”

As Mr. Ford was being walked out of City Hall around 4 a.m., he also allegedly uttered a sexually explicit comment to a female security guard. An e-mail by City Hall staff describing the mayor’s behaviour that evening said he made some “very alarming allegations” regarding an individual whose name has been deleted in the document.

ALCOHOL PURCHASES

Mr. Towhey told police “staffers routinely buy alcohol for the mayor because they do not want him doing it himself,” the police document says. Former staffer Nico Fidani told investigators the mayor once asked him to buy a “mickey” of vodka; he did so and dropped it off at the mayor’s home, according to the document.

In the six months Mr. Fickel worked in the mayor’s office, he said he bought Mr. Ford alcohol somewhere between seven and 10 times. “FICKEL believes that when you combine other staffers, buying alcohol for the Mayor would be a regular occurrence,” the document says. For Mr. Nejatian, purchasing alcohol for the mayor was allegedly a twice-weekly chore. “This would happen close to when Mayor Ford was leaving the office, approximately 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM,” the affidavit says.

FOOTBALL DUTIES

Mr. Fickel told police that after helping the mayor at a football practice for the high school team he coached until last year, the former staffer sat beside Mr. Ford as he pulled to the side of the road in his Cadillac Escalade and removed a mickey of vodka from a paper bag. Mr. Fickel said the mayor drank the vodka in less than two minutes.

After Mr. Ford was fired as coach for the football team, Mr. Fickel was told to prep a pizza party for all the team members at the mayor’s house. Once Mr. Towhey heard about this, he told police, he called the mayor and told him he could not have city staff “doing football stuff.”

PAYROLL

George Christopoulos, the mayor’s former spokesman, told investigators Mr. Ford hired long-time friend David Price after Mr. Price “basically badgered” the mayor into giving him a job. “The mayor finally gave in and hired him at double the price of everyone else in the office,” Mr. Christopoulos told police. Mr. Christopoulos said women who “smoked a joint with the Mayor” were told they could have a job. “CHRISTOPOULOUS would have to interview these women and try and talk them out of a job,” the document says.

Mr. Christopoulos said that after several staffers resigned following reports about the alleged crack video, “the Mayor offered the remaining staff members more money to stay in the office. Everyone’s salaries went up a substantial amount.” Mr. Fickel said he received a $15,000 raise, bringing his annual salary up to $50,000. “The Mayor approached everyone in the office individually and said something like, ‘thanks for staying around. I am going to give you a raise.’ The Mayor did not say ‘this is a raise so that you will stay at the office.’”

PERSONAL ERRANDS

Mr. Fidani said he would often receive “unusual” phone calls from the mayor, making “strange” requests such as picking up two cases of Diet Coke. He said he and other special assistants dropped off and picked up the mayor’s dry cleaning, and that the mayor asked Mr. Fickel to “change light bulbs in the front lawn, change batteries in his children’s toys, buying cartons of cigarettes, bleach, laundry detergent and diet coke for the Mayor’s wife,” the affidavit says.

SOCIAL DUTIES

Former staffers told police they were asked to retrieve the mayor from a bar and look after his children. On the evening of St. Patrick’s Day in 2012, when the mayor went to Bier Markt restaurant, Mr. Christopoulos told police “staff was sent down to get him out of the bar and put him in a cab for home.” On the evening of the Garrison Ball, where the mayor was said to have arrived late and intoxicated, a staffer was allegedly asked to take the mayor’s children to McDonald’s while Mr. Towhey tried to convince the mayor to “do a quick walk through, shake some hands and not speak to anyone,” the document says.

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