In the months before Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was banned from coaching high school football, he allegedly threatened a teacher, appeared inebriated for a crucial practice and at an equipment handout and forced his teenaged players to roll around in goose scat as he berated them with profanity after winning a big game.
The allegations against Mr. Ford are detailed in more than 300 pages of Toronto Catholic school board documents released Wednesday under freedom-of-information legislation. The disclosure occurred after The Globe and Mail appealed the board’s decision to keep details on Mr. Ford’s dismissal from Don Bosco Catholic Secondary School’s football program confidential.
The mayor had served as volunteer head coach for a decade before he was prohibited from coaching at any of Toronto’s Catholic schools in May, 2013. The ban was announced days after revelations of a video reportedly showing the mayor smoking crack cocaine.
Mr. Ford, who is running for re-election, went to a rehabilitation centre this past May after The Globe reported a second crack video had surfaced.
When asked by The Globe on Wednesday about the allegations, Mr. Ford declined to comment. The accusations shed new light on what was happening behind the scenes at Don Bosco and add to the avalanche of controversies that have surrounded Mr. Ford’s time as mayor, most of them centred on his abuse of alcohol and illegal drugs.
Concerns about Mr. Ford’s behaviour and the intense media attention he was drawing to the Etobicoke high school stretched back months, at least to August, 2012, the newly released documents show.
He allegedly clashed with fellow coach John Royiwsky, a teacher at the school.
According to briefing notes prepared by director of communications John Yan, the mayor was upset that Mr. Royiwsky had banned practices until the start of the school year.
“The Mayor was very heated and swearing at, and challenging Mr. Royiwiski [sic] to a fight,” the briefing notes state.
Then-principal Ugo Rossi stepped in. Mr. Royiwsky was visibly shaken. The mayor later apologized, the briefing notes state.
The same document, titled “Critical incidents involving Mayor Ford,” outlines other serious accusations: Mr. Ford allegedly offered custodians cash to keep the school open an extra hour in the summer, but the custodians refused; he delayed mandatory criminal background checks for himself and his coaching staff and then had a staffer “rush” the paperwork through police Chief Bill Blair, according to a briefing note; he showed up late and appeared “visibly inebriated” at the final practice before the Metro Bowl championship game; he took players on an unsanctioned overnight trip to play a football team in Peterborough, Ont.; and he allegedly made his players roll around in goose scat and swore at them after a game against Father Henry Carr in October, 2012.
The Don Bosco team won that game, but Mr. Ford was not happy with the team’s performance, Mr. Yan said Wednesday.
“A lot of these kids come from gangs, they come from broken homes, the stories you would hear would bring a tear to your eye,” Mr. Ford told the host.
That evening, Mr. Rossi e-mailed his superiors. “I am a very patient Catholic but this is enough. This is our Bosco, these are our students, they deserve better.”
That afternoon, board spokesman Mr. Yan e-mailed superintendent Loretta Notten.
“Mayor Ford is way over the top – [principal] Ugo is ready to pull the plug on him as coach,” Mr. Yan wrote.
The documents suggest there was already unrest at Don Bosco around the mayor’s coaching duties. And in fact, on January 16, 2013, a month and a half before the Sun interview aired, Ms. Notten wrote an e-mail to school officials requesting “an internal discussion re next year and football at Bosco.”
Records indicate a meeting was scheduled for February but never happened.
After the Sun segment, things moved quickly. The board launched an investigation and on March 20, sent the mayor a letter requesting he not have any contact with Don Bosco football players while the board decides what to do.
An e-mail from around that time indicates the board was already planning the mayor’s departure. “I believe [the letter] captures what was discussed at our meeting with the ultimate goal of getting Mr. Ford to agree to a meeting so that we can provide him with an exit strategy,” wrote Mr. Yan.
A parent council meeting was held on March 25. According to a briefing note prepared afterward, parents felt the mayor was “using the school and the team for political gain.” They were angry about his comments and the media attention, although most believed he genuinely loved his players. In the end, a majority of parents at the meeting felt it was time for Mr. Ford to go.
On April 9, Mr. Rossi informed his superiors that the mayor was making overtures to his teaching staff, but they weren’t interested in talking. His staff voted 41-3 not to meet with embattled Coach Ford.
In early May, with the board’s review ongoing, the mayor asked school officials for permission to distribute football equipment on Don Bosco property. In an e-mail to then-director of education, Bruce Rodrigues, Mr. Yan alleged the mayor showed up “inebriated.”
He was fired about two weeks later.
“After careful consideration of the input received from (consultations with parents and teachers), I am writing to inform you that the school board has decided to pursue a different direction with a new volunteer head coach for the Don Bosco Eagles senior football team,” read a May 22 letter signed by Mr. Rodrigues.
As school board officials moved to push Mr. Ford out in May, his brother, Councillor Doug Ford, allegedly threatened Mr. Rossi at a community luncheon, according to an e-mail on May 6, 2013 from Mr. Yan.In another e-mail, Mr. Yan alleges Doug Ford also made a “blackmail attempt” against Mr. Rossi and a “racial slur” against Mr. Rodrigues.
Councillor Ford denied the allegations when asked by a Globe reporter Wednesday evening.
“You guys are nuts,” he said at City Hall. “Did you actually talk to him? He’s a friend of mine.”
He also denied uttering a racial slur against Mr. Rodrigues, calling the accusation “ridiculous.”
“It’s a lie. Ridiculous. You guys make up all this shit. That’s what you do. You’re ruthless.”
Mr. Rossi could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The school board had initially refused to disclose internal records about Mr. Ford’s dismissal to The Globe and the Toronto Star. The board argued that details about the mayor’s tenure as volunteer head football coach were shielded from public scrutiny because Mr. Ford had a “quasi-employment” relationship with the board.
Ontario’s municipal freedom-of-information legislation protects labour-relations communication from disclosure. But in weighing a media appeal, an adjudicator with the Information and Privacy Commissioner ruled the dismissal of a volunteer football coach is not an “employment-related matter.”
The school board planned to release e-mails, briefing notes, letters and other correspondence related to Mr. Ford in April, but the mayor appealed the decision. However, he failed to respond to repeated request for arguments on why the records should be kept secret and Information and Privacy Commissioner’s office closed the case earlier this month.