Staffers in Rob Ford’s office told police they were concerned about drug and alcohol use by the mayor and said he was seen at City Hall in the company of women they suspected may be prostitutes, according to a newly released police document.
The allegations are included in a nearly 500-page document that was used to obtain a search warrant in a months-long investigation, which targeted Mr. Ford and his friend, accused drug dealer Alessandro (Sandro) Lisi.
Portions of the document – called an information to obtain, or ITO – were unsealed on Wednesday after media organizations, including The Globe and Mail, were successful in their application to unseal the material.
None of the allegations against the mayor have been proven in court. No charges have been laid against the mayor or his staffers.
The document includes interviews with staffers from the mayor’s office, including former chief of staff Mark Towhey, former press secretary George Christopoulos and Mr. Ford’s current director of operations, David Price.
One notable allegation was made by Mr. Christopoulos, who is described in the document as probably “the person that the Mayor would confide in the most.”
Mr. Christopoulos told police that the mayor said he knew Anthony Smith but did not mention how. Mr. Smith, who was gunned down earlier this year, was one of the men in a notorious photograph of the mayor, posing with alleged gang members.
However, Mr. Ford told city council on Wednesday that he met the men in the photo the night it was taken and never saw them again.
A number of the incidents detailed in the document occurred at the Bier Markt pub, in Toronto, on St. Patrick’s Day, 2012. According to former staffer Isaac Ransom, the night began at city hall around 9 p.m., when he was called to the mayor’s office.
Mr. Ransom told police Mr. Ford had consumed a lot of vodka and was trying to get his staffers to drink with him. The mayor, he said, talked “about getting hammered, going out, then getting laid.” Despite staffers’ appeals to have him remain at his office, Mr. Ransom said, the mayor insisted on going to a party on the Esplanade.
In a taxi en route to the bar, Mr. Ransom said other staffers told him, the mayor made derogatory racial remarks and “threw business cards” at the driver.
After the bar, Mr. Ransom said, Mr. Ford was “tired and erratic.” One moment, he would break down crying about his father, Mr. Ransom said. At another, he would berate his staffers, calling them “Liberal hacks.”
While at the bar, according to a Bier Markt employee interviewed by police, the mayor and a woman were seen “turned in towards each other with their heads down and back from the table and he heard 2 ‘sniffs’ from both of them. It appeared that they were hiding what they were doing.” The Bier Markt employee said a Ford staffer later told him not to tell anyone what he’d seen that night. Mr. Christopolous later told police “there are some allegations that the mayor did a ‘bump’ off his wrist while at the bar.”
Michael Neptune, a security staffer at the Bier Markt posted outside the Merchant Room that evening, told police that when the mayor was ready to leave, he tried to lead him out through the cellar so he could avoid other patrons.
But Mr. Ford decided to walk out on to the dance floor. “He ended up pushing people out of his way as he entered the dance floor,” Mr. Neptune told police. “He was flushed, had bloodshot eyes and his co-ordination was bad.”
According to former Ford staffers Mr. Ransom and Mr. Fickel, the mayor’s entourage that night included a woman described in the document as a “professional escort who knew the Mayor Ford well.” She returned with them to city hall that night, according to Mr. Ransom, and had been seen with him on at least one other occasion, at a stag party.
The mother of the woman told The Globe on Wednesday that her daughter is not an escort.
In a separate incident from the fall of 2012, Mr. Fickel told Mr. Towhey, the mayor’s then chief of staff, that the mayor had stopped while driving to drink a “mickey” of vodka after football practice. According to Mr. Fickel, Mr. Ford pulled his car over and grabbed an LCBO paper bag from the front of his passenger seat, “and drank the 11 or 12 oz mickey in 1½-2 minutes going back and forth with a Gatorade.”
Mr. Fickel told police he saw the mayor intoxicated on about 15 to 20 occasions – at his office, at football practice, and at other events. He added that he was asked to buy alcohol for the mayor seven to 10 times. A number of other staffers also told police they had been asked on occasion to purchase alcohol for the mayor.
Nico Fidani, a former staffer described in the affidavit as expressing concerns that Mr. Lisi was providing the mayor with illegal drugs, described one such incident to police in a June 26 interview. He said he dropped a “mickey” of vodka off at the mayor’s house and afterwards told Mr. Towhey, who, according to the affidavit, “said that it was fine but to never do it again.”
Mr. Fidani told police he would frequently receive calls from the mayor, who sometimes sounded intoxicated, regarding “strange requests,” such as picking up two cases of Diet Coke.
Mr. Fidani told police he was with the mayor the night of the Garrison Ball and that he tried unsuccessfully to convince Mr. Ford it would be inappropriate to bring his children to an adult event..”
The release of the document came on the same day that Mr. Ford faced a grilling by his colleagues at City Hall, after Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong brought forth a motion Wednesday asking the mayor to apologize. At one point of the debate, Mr. Minnan-Wong asked Mr. Ford whether he has purchased illegal drugs in the past two years. “Yes, I have,” Mr. Ford replied after a long pause.
After months of denials, Mr. Ford admitted last week to reporters that he has smoked crack cocaine. “No, I’m not an addict and no, I do not do drugs.”
The new allegations come from nearly 500 pages of police evidence used to acquire a search warrant for Mr. Ford’s friend, Mr. Lisi, in Project Brazen 2. That police investigation, which was launched as a result of media reports about a video showing Mr. Ford smoking crack cocaine, tracked Mr. Ford’s activities for months across the city, and resulted in a slew of drug charges against Mr. Lisi, 35, and Etobicoke dry cleaner Jamshid Bahrami in early October.
Detective-Sergeant Gary Giroux, one of Toronto Police’s most seasoned detectives, was assigned to lead that probe, and has said he recently extended an invitation to Mr. Ford through the mayor’s chief of staff to interview him. But Mr. Ford has said he is acting on his lawyer’s advice by not agreeing to speak with police.
In his decision Wednesday morning, Justice Ian Nordheimer wrote that there is “no serious risk posed to the administration of justice arising from giving public access” to the document.
Justice Nordheimer specified that information about Mayor’s activities should be released because the police investigation “was an investigation into allegations surrounding the Mayor. It was not an investigation into the activities of Mr. Lisi and Bahrami.”
The Globe, The Toronto Star, and a group of other media organizations have been fighting a court battle for the ITO to be released to the public. The document was previously released in October, but with significant portions redacted. Justice Nordheimer ruled Wednesday that some of those redacted portions now be publicly released.
“We are very pleased with the decision,” The Globe’s lawyer, Peter Jacobsen, said Wednesday morning. “This again affirms the Court’s firm support of greater transparency and openness. We believe the information that should be released by the Crown within the next 24 hours will be of interest to the public and is in the public interest.”
What will remain sealed are portions that refer to Mayor Ford’s wife, who, according to Justice Nordheimer, “had some personal issues during the course of the time covered by the ITO.”
Remaining censored in the newly released documents is a section titled, “Project Traveller and the Rob Ford connection.”
Project Traveller was a year-long guns and drugs investigation that culminated with dozens of arrests in mid-June. Two men arrested in the police operation tried to sell the Ford video to several media organizations.
The video has not surfaced publicly, but police have a copy. Mr. Ford’s friend, Mr. Lisi, has been charged with extortion in connection with the video.
Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly said he will wait a day before he comments on the latest revelations. “I want to take a day to reflect,” he told The Globe on his way to his office from council late Wednesday afternoon.
Councillor John Parker said what he finds most disturbing is the pattern of behaviour that the latest details reveal. “There is a terrible pattern of absolutely unforgivable behaviour. That gives us a measure of the character of the man who holds the office,” Mr. Parker said. “And frankly, he is unfit to hold the office and that has been demonstrated time and time again.”
As well, Mr. Parker said he does not understand how Mr. Ford can continue as mayor while refusing to co-operate with police. “That troubles me possibly more than anything else,” he said.
Meanwhile, Councillor Adam Vaughan raised questions over why, with all the mounting accusations and admissions from the mayor, no charges have been laid by police. “I think we need to take good stock of that and make sure that the mayor – with his office and his privilege and his trust fund – is being treated the same as every other person in the city who finds himself in the same circumstance,” Mr. Vaughan said.
Toronto Police spokesman Mark Pugash said the force has been accused of both targeting the mayor and shielding him, which is “one of the indications that this is going right down the middle.” He added that police have taken legal advice and consulted with the Crown along the way.
On the question of why the mayor has not been charged, Mr. Pugash said, “This applies to anyone: Where there is evidence to charge, people would be charged.” Mr. Pugash said Mr. Ford’s admission at City Hall today – that he purchased illicit drugs in the past two years – has been passed to investigators.
With reports from Kathryn Blaze Carlson, Jill Mahoney, Renata D’Aliesio, Elizabeth Church and Karen HowlettReport Typo/Error