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Rob Ford suspends staffer over call to Sun newspaper

Dave Price leads Mayor Rob Ford off of the elevator as they arrive at City Hall in Toronto on Ontario on May 28, 2013 before the Executive Committee Meeting.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has suspended a senior member of his staff and long-time family friend for comments he made to a newspaper reporter, but indicated the staffer will continue to work in his office.

Dave Price, hired this spring as director of operations and logistics and a familiar figure at Mr. Ford's side, was suspended Tuesday for a week without pay, a spokesman in the mayor's office confirmed.

Asked about Mr. Price at an event Wednesday, Mr. Ford refused to offer details, saying, "Dave is a very hard worker. We all make mistakes. He's made a mistake, and that's it. I'm not getting into anything else."

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Mr. Price became the centre of media reports this week when it was revealed by the CBC that he called the radio show hosted by the mayor and his brother at least six times before joining the mayor's staff, identifying himself as "Dave from Scarborough" or "Dave from Etobicoke." In all instances, he voiced strong support for the Ford administration, and at times used inflammatory language to describe its opponents.

What led to Mr. Price's suspension was the actions he took after that story broke. Unhappy with the headline on a story, Mr. Price placed an anonymous call to a Toronto Sun reporter to complain and refused to confirm his identity when challenged. After hearing a tape of that call, Mr. Ford took action. Mr. Ford also apologized for the call, The Sun reported.

This is not the first time Mr. Price has made headlines since he arrived at city hall in April.

A Globe investigation published earlier this month revealed that Mr. Price had participated in Doug Ford's hashish-selling enterprise in the 1980s. Doug Ford, now an Etobicoke councillor, has denied those allegations, and Mr. Price did not respond to requests for comment for that story.

When asked in April why Mr. Price, who had formerly worked as a financial adviser, had been hired, Councillor Ford told The Globe and Mail, "You can't teach loyalty."

While most of the attention on the mayor's office was focused on Mr. Price, another familiar figure in Mr. Ford's office left Wednesday. Chris Fickel, a special assistant who regularly was on the sidelines at the football field while Mr. Ford coached his high school team, resigned. Since the stories appeared about the alleged video purportedly showing the mayor smoking crack, seven staff members have left the mayor's office. (The mayor has said he does not use crack and is not an addict.)

Mr. Fickel's departure was expected, said a source in the mayor's office, who indicated that Mr. Fickel had left to devote more time to a new business venture and had left on good terms.

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"The mayor thanks Chris for his service and wishes him all the best," said a statement from Mr. Ford's office.

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