The union representing hundreds of Toronto City Hall workers is accusing Mayor Rob Ford and the city of putting workers at risk by acting “inappropriately and irresponsibly” in handling a bomb threat this week.
CUPE Local 79 president Tim Maguire said Friday he has filed a grievance against the City of Toronto alleging a “breakdown in policy” when Mr. Ford publicized a bomb threat to reporters on Monday – including reading it on live television before police had investigated. And although the mayor said he acted on advice from City Hall security and police, both the city and Toronto Police dispute that claim.
“We think the mayor acted inappropriately and irresponsibly,” Mr. Maguire said. “We’re asking the ministry and others to respond, and indicate whether they’ll investigate.”
Mr. Maguire said a number of concerned workers contacted the union about Monday’s threat, including some who left the building after the mayor’s press conference even though City Hall was never officially evacuated.
“This crosses the line – when peoples’ health and safety, when their state of mind, when they’re trying to deliver services and are interrupted by the irresponsible handling of a threat like this,” Mr. Maguire said.
According to RCMP figures quoted in the city’s bomb-threat policy, up to 99 per cent of such incidents turn out to be hoaxes and therefore the policy says they should be handled in a way that is “as calm and orderly as possible.” For this reason, the policy asks workers not to “make any comments to any members of the public or media regarding any threat or evacuation at any City of Toronto facility.”
But on Monday, shortly after reporting the threat – and before officers had fully investigated – the mayor appeared in front of reporters and read out the e-mailed threat in full, including a vow that “City Hall will blow.”
Toronto Police found no evidence of explosives.
Mr. Ford said on Friday that he acted on advice from officials.
“I called security and I did exactly what security told me to do,” the mayor said. But Wynna Brown, a spokesperson for the city, said, “City Hall security staff was not consulted in the mayor’s media strategy.”
The mayor also said he consulted police. “I talked to police,” he said. “They came into my office. Should I go out and talk to the media? Yes, do exactly that.”
But Toronto Police spokesman Victor Kwong disputed that in a statement. “The officers were spoken to by their supervisors, and the officers’ recollection differs,” he said.
The mayor’s claim on Friday also appears to be at odds with his earlier comments. On Monday, when asked whether he was acting on the advice of police by publicizing the threat, he responded: “No, I’m acting on my own advice.”
Mr. Ford’s brother and campaign manager, Councillor Doug Ford, accused Mr. Maguire of “playing politics.”
“God forbid something ever happened, the same person – the head of local CUPE again, playing politics – would stand up there and say, ‘How dare the mayor keep this from the people in this building?’” he said on CP24.
The councillor said “guaranteed, 99 per cent” of workers would want to know if their building was subject of a bomb threat, and that the mayor “100 per cent” made the right decision.
“I can’t tell you how many times there have been threats against the mayor and we don’t say a word. But when it involves thousands of employees, we’ve got to inform the people,” he said.
Ms. Brown said on Friday that the city responded “professionally and responsibly” on Monday. Still, she said, the incident will be reviewed “to determine whether any improvements or changes are required.”
With a report from Kaleigh RogersReport Typo/Error