Just hours after arriving in Vancouver, the scandal-plagued Toronto Mayor Rob Ford found himself once again the subject of controversy, after he and former staffer David Price were stopped by police for jaywalking.
Mr. Ford, who arrived in Vancouver on Friday for Mr. Price's mother's funeral, received a ticket for jaywalking early Saturday, and denied reports that he had been intoxicated. A Global News report Friday cited an eyewitness who claimed Mr. Ford had told them he was being ticketed for "public drunkenness." That witness later retracted his statement.
The mayor's spokesman Amin Massoudi confirmed that the mayor received a ticket.
"He did not receive any other tickets or citations," he wrote.
The mayor spoke with the Sun early Saturday, telling them "it was for $109 for disobeying a pedestrian sign," and that all he'd had to drink that night was a diet Coke. He said he was on his way to a Chinese restaurant across from his hotel when police stopped him. "They went out of their way to do this. I said I support you guys. Did you arrest me because I am a Broncos fan?"
Around the same time Friday night, social media lit up with photos and tweets saying that Mr. Ford had been in a pub that night just steps from where he was stopped by police.
"Rob Ford is at the foggy dew," Twitter user @DChapman4 wrote early Saturday morning. "Got hammered with Rob Ford tonight," wrote @Jay_Dubzz. Images said to have been taken inside the bar show Mr. Ford wearing a suit and tie, and posing with crowds of young people mugging for his photo.
Brian McDonald, a former Toronto resident, said he saw Mayor Ford walk out of the Foggy Dew pub in Coquitlam at about 1:00 am.
"I didn't even know he was here until I was outside and he was coming out the door. Everyone was taking pictures and I looked and I was like, 'That's my mayor!' It was hilarious. I couldn't believe he was here partying with us," Mr. McDonald said in an interview outside the pub Saturday.
Mr. McDonald said he jumped a short fence, hugged the mayor, and the two posed for pictures. Mr. McDonald returned to the pub Saturday, however, because he had lost his phone.
He said the mayor did not mention anything about receiving a jaywalking ticket during their brief conversation. He also did not see the mayor have a drink.
He said the mayor seemed happy and had a "jolly Santa Claus glow."
Mr. McDonald said he's definitely a Ford fan.
"He's awesome. He's just an honest guy, right? We all have our issues and stuff. He admitted to the accusations and stuff," he said.
Jake Laforge, 19, a cook at the Foggy Dew, had left work but returned to meet a friend. When he arrived, Mr. Ford was already in the bar, being swarmed by about 20 or 30 patrons who were taking photos and videos, and vying for his attention.
By then, Mr. Laforge said in an interview on Saturday, Mr. Ford had already received his jaywalking ticket – a point that was the talk of the bar.
Eventually, a decision was made to extricate Mr. Ford from the crush of patrons to the back kitchen area. "People were just sort of hounding him," said Mr. Laforge. "I was really surprised by how many people were around him."
In the kitchen, Mr. Laforge asked a man accompanying the Toronto mayor about having a photo taken with the famous visitor. That man took the photo, which was among scores of photos of Mr. Ford posted on social media.
"He's a straight up person. He'll tell you how it is. That's the kind of person I am, so it was good meeting a person like that," said Mr. Laforge, who said he was impressed that Mr. Ford turned up in a crowded bar.
"I admire him as a real human being. He's not fake. I like that."
Of Mr. Ford, he said, "He's a really friendly guy."
"I said, `How is it being the mayor?' He said, `It's big. Sometimes it's hectic, but it's a very big job.' He said, `I am the same in front of the cameras as I am to my friends.'
"He said the first few hours of his trip had been a little bit stressful, but (were) good now."
Mr. Laforge said the mayor did not appear intoxicated and wasn't drinking liquor when he saw him.
He also said many people jaywalk in the area where Mr. Ford was ticketed by police.
The RCMP said it would have no comment on the incident involving Mr. Ford.
"The RCMP does not routinely disclose or publicly comment on matters that do not involve criminal code or other serious offenses including violation tickets. This policy is applied for all individuals regardless of who they are," Sergeant Rob Vermeulen said in a statement. "We have no further comment."
Mr. Ford did not answer questions when he left his hotel Saturday.
Mr. Ford has been the subject of scrutiny after he admitted late last year to smoking crack cocaine and public drunkenness. Afterwards, he claimed to have quit drinking and using illegal drugs.
But last month, Mr. Ford admitted to drinking again after he was caught on video rambling and using explicit language to describe Toronto's police chief. He was also caught on video last month meeting with his friend Alessandro Lisi, an alleged drug dealer who was targeted alongside the mayor in a major Toronto Police investigation called Project Brazen 2. That investigation is ongoing.