Toronto mayor responds to allegations of staff misuse
Published Wednesday, September 12, 2012 10:58AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, September 12, 2012 9:50PM EDT
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford accused councillors of insulting his staff on Wednesday, after fresh allegations emerged that he was using public employees and resources to fund his hobby as a high school football coach.
The Globe and Mail reported on Wednesday that Ford appears to have used at least two city hall staff members to help run two summer football teams.
Ford also hired Andrew Gillis, a former quarterback of the University of Toronto Varsity Blues football team, to be a “special assistant” in his office at city hall, the Globe reported.
Ford took some heat earlier this week after leaving an executive committee meeting five hours early to go coach a practice for his football team, the Don Bosco Eagles. Gillis reportedly joined Ford at the practice.
“Why has a varsity football quarterback been hired in the mayor’s office? It defies logic,” Coun. Adam Vaughan told CTV Toronto on Wednesday. “(Ford) said, and he was clear about this, that he would quit coaching if elected mayor.”
A statement released from the Office of the Mayor on Wednesday said Ford has a “24-hours a day, 365 days a year” job. The statement said the mayor is passionate about football and creating opportunities for youth to enhance their health, fitness and prospects.
"I'm okay if councillors want to criticize me for helping kids. That's their right," Ford said in a statement. "I'm a big guy and I can take it. However, councillors should not be criticizing my staff. Each and every one of them works hard every day for the taxpayers of this great city. They put in at least 40 hours of work for taxpayers every week. Often more.
"Only a coward would criticize my staff. They can't defend themselves in the media against elected officials."
According to a Facebook page, the Rexdale Raiders football team listed two cell phone numbers belonging to city hall staff assistants Chris Fickel and Isaac Shirokoff as contacts for Ford’s summer teams, the Rexdale Raiders, who played in the varsity and junior summer leagues of the Ontario Minor Football League.
Their taxpayer-funded cellphones were listed as contact numbers for the program on Facebook as well as recruitment flyers. Shirokoff has recently left city hall to attend graduate school.
Ford’s brother, Counc. Doug Ford, defended the mayor’s actions and said that using the city cellphone numbers as contacts didn’t cost taxpayers any additional money.
“If you talk on one minute, or you talk on 200 minutes, it’s the same cost,” Doug Ford said. “But why don’t we look at all the charitable organizations that call that cellphone, outside of football. That’s part of the duties that’s not costing the city any more money. It’s so petty.”
Doug Ford said all staff members work 40-hour weeks and then go above and beyond to give additional hours to help with football.
Ford recently appeared in court in a conflict-of-interest hearing related to money he collected to fund a personal football charity, which helps equip teams across the city.
The case stems from a vote into whether Ford should be forced to pay back money he collected using city staff and resources.
A judge is currently deliberating on the case after a two-day trial which saw the mayor take the stand and face cross-examination.
Ford has described himself as a football fan. He took in two CFL games during a recent trip to Alberta.
After a day of dodging criticism, Ford showed up at the Don Bosco Eagles football practice at 3 p.m.
Ford left by 5 p.m., without speaking to waiting reporters.