Mayor Rob Ford is fighting back, saying anyone who says he jumped the queue to get roadwork done outside his family's business before a company 50th anniversary bash is "an outright liar."
The work outside the Etobicoke office of Deco Labels and Tags was completed in less than three weeks after Mr. Ford personally visited the site with city staff to point out problems and later held a meeting in his office with senior officials to discuss the issue.
The work included repairs to a culvert adjacent to the Deco property, improvements to drainage and patching of potholes, which staff estimate cost the city between $7,000 and $10,000."Let me cut to the chase here. This is very simple," a fired-up Mr. Ford told reporters Friday. "Deco didn't get any preferential treatment here."
"Pot holes should be fixed in the city between three and five days," Mr. Ford went on to explain. "We waited three to four years. Whoever is saying that we jumped the queue is an outright liar. We never jumped the queue. We just wanted to have the road fixed because we had hundreds of people coming."
Mr. Ford is known for his habit of handing out his card to everyone he meets and encouraging them to call for help. He defended his meetings with staff at Deco's Greensboro Drive site and in his office, saying it was what he has done for "hundreds and thousands" of businesses and homeowners during his 12 years in office.
"I have done this over and over and over when people call me," he said. "If someone has a pot hole in front of their business, I go out and fix it just like I did for our company. There was no difference here."
Asked if someone from his family's firm should have made the call, rather than the mayor, Mr. Ford said critics would have accused him of hiding behind Deco staff.
"I have nothing to hide," Mr. Ford said, resisting attempts by his staff to end his comments to reporters. "We went out there and got the potholes fix, which is the prudent thing to do when you are hosting a party. You want someone to twist their ankle on a city road? No. Cause then we'd be sued."
Asked if he is worried about the "optics" of the city's top elected official personally intervening to get repairs done on behalf of the Ford family business, he shot back.
"There is no optics," he said.
Mr. Ford has recently faced questions about his use of city resources and staff to support the football teams he coaches. He also is awaiting a verdict on conflict-of-interest charges over his participation in a council debate and vote about fundraising for his football foundation.
These latest revelations have several of the mayor's council colleagues – including some of his close allies – questioning his actions and the speed at which the unscheduled work was done.
Councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong, the chair of the public works committee and an ally of Mr. Ford, said that any Toronto business that made the same request for road repairs would have been treated the same way.
"I have been told by staff that they didn't offer any special consideration [to Deco]," he said.
However, Mr. Minnan-Wong said he does not think it was right for the mayor to make the request directly to the most senior officials in the city's transportation department.
"If I was the mayor, I would keep my interest in any private companies separate from my duties and responsibilities as an elected official," he said.
Councillor Doug Ford, who stood by the mayor's side as he talked to reporters later endorsed his brother's comments. "I agree with him 100 per cent," he told The Globe and Mail.
With a report from Kelly Grant