Toronto Police Services Board member Andy Pringle is recusing himself from discussions about Mayor Rob Ford and his brother Councillor Doug Ford after allegations by the Fords of a conflict of interest.
Doug Ford called on Mr. Pringle to step down from the board last week, citing a cozy relationship between Mr. Pringle, Chief Bill Blair, and mayoral candidate John Tory. Mr. Pringle, who is raising money for Mr. Tory's mayoral campaign, worked as chief of staff for Mr. Tory when he was leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party. Mr. Ford said Mr. Pringle was in a conflict of interest for taking Chief Blair on a fishing trip to New Brunswick two years ago, which Mr. Pringle says is not a conflict
"I have recused myself and said to the board chair that I will recuse myself from any discussion about the Fords at the board," Mr. Pringle told The Globe and Mail.
Mr. Pringle revealed the move when asked to comment on Chief Blair's decision Wednesday to ask the Ontario Provincial Police to take control of the ongoing investigation into Mayor Ford.
Mr. Pringle declined to elaborate, referring questions to police services board chair Alok Mukherjee, who is attending a conference in Vancouver and declined interview requests.
The bitter public feud between the Fords and the police chief reached a new level of animosity last week, when Doug Ford, who is running his brother's re-election campaign, accused Chief Blair of violating the Police Act by discussing the ongoing investigation into Mayor Ford in order to boost the chances of Mr. Tory. Mr. Ford filed a complaint with the Office of the Independent Police Review Director over the chief's comments in October about the video that purportedly shows the mayor smoking crack cocaine. Then, last week, Chief Blair said he was offended by the mayor's insults on a second video shot at the Steak Queen restaurant. Doug Ford said he plans to file a second complaint to the OIPRD.
Doug Ford's comments came a few days after Mr. Tory officially entered the municipal race.
On Monday, a week after Mr. Tory's declaration, Mr. Pringle sent a letter to Mr. Mukherjee declaring that he would be recusing himself from discussions related to Doug Ford's complaints about Chief Blair. In the letter, obtained by The Globe and Mail, he also decried the "false allegations" made by Councillor Ford.
"Inviting the Chief on the fishing trip resulted, in my view, in forging a better and more productive professional relationship for the benefit of the organization we both serve. I did not consider then and do not consider now that my doing so created any conflict of interest," Mr. Pringle wrote.
Mr. Pringle said he covered the cost of the trip, saying he felt it "inappropriate" to ask for compensation from someone he oversees, and noted that he informed Mr. Mukherjee beforehand.
Still, Mr. Pringle wrote that he decided to recuse himself from Ford-related discussions "to avoid even the possible appearance of a conflict."
Doug Ford's broadside against Mr. Pringle is not the first time he has publicly criticized the long-time Tory fundraiser. In November, Mr. Ford also called for Mr. Pringle's removal from the police board for being too cozy with the chief, citing the same 2012 fishing trip.
Mr. Pringle's letter includes a written opinion from corporate governance expert David Beatty, a professor at the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management, clearing him of any conflict.
"In my opinion, far from being a conflict, your action in spending more time with the Chief – in this instance, through the mechanism of several days offsite – was an example of good governance practice," says Prof. Beatty's letter, also dated March 3.
Mr. Pringle, whose letter was written on the letterhead of RP Investment Advisors, where he is partner and chairman, wrote that he trusts that his letter and Prof. Beatty's opinion "resolve any concern that may have been created by the false allegations made by Councillor Ford."
Mr. Pringle, a former managing director at RBC Capital Markets who serves on several boards of charitable organizations, was appointed to the police services board, a seven-member arm's length civilian body that oversees the force, in the fall of 2011. His candidacy had the support of Councillor Ford and was confirmed by City Council's civic appointments committee.
The Ford family also backed Mr. Pringle when he unsuccessfully ran as a Conservative candidate in the 2007 provincial election in the riding of Etobicoke Centre.