Ford blasted for improper use of influence
On a day when embattled mayoral candidate Rob Ford was asking a group of seniors who could they trust, a report surfaced from the city's integrity commissioner scolding him for improper use of influence.
"Councillor Rob Ford used the City of Toronto logo, his status as a city councillor and City of Toronto resources to solicit funds for a private football foundation he created in his name,” Integrity Commissioner Janet Leiper wrote in a report made public Friday as part of city council's agenda for next week.
"Donors to the councillor’s foundation included lobbyists, clients of lobbyists and a corporation which does business with the city."
Ford was out on the gridiron on Friday evening as part of his work as a volunteer football coach for the Don Bosco Catholic Secondary School team, the Eagles.
He seemed frustrated by the ruling, telling CTV News: "It's truly unbelievable. I'm helping kids start football programs, getting kids off the streets, getting them out of gangs, fundraising money -- and they're criticizing me.
"But other councillors are having $12,000 retirement parties," Ford said.
To raise money for the Rob Ford Football Foundation, the councillor (Ward 2, Etobicoke North) had sent out a letter asking for donations. The back of the letter contained a gold seal, the City of Toronto logo and bearing the stamp "Rob Ford Etobicoke North Councillor."
The complaint was made in May by a citizen who resided outside Ford's ward. The letter was dated March 19. Ford announced on March 25 that he would be running for mayor.
Leiper found Ford had broken several rules in the Code of Conduct for Members of Council:
- Article IV (gifts and benefits)
- Article VI (use of city property, services and other resources)
- Article VIII (improper use of influence)
"Councillor Ford said that he used his councillor letterhead so that he can save the money that would be spent in printing separate Football Foundation letterhead," Leiper wrote.
"During the investigation he repeated that the TCF (Toronto Community Foundation) had approved his fundraising letters and that he wanted a ruling from them on whether this is appropriate."
However, Leiper said a foundation staff member told her that the group -- which receives funds on behalf of Ford's charity and issues tax receipts -- had nothing in its file about the TCF approving Ford's use of city councillor letterhead for fundraising.
"The President of the TCF confirmed that the TCF is in no position to have told Councillor Ford whether he could use City of Toronto councillor letterhead to fundraise for the Football Foundation," Leiper added. "The president said he expected the councillor to know his own guidelines."
From March 2008 to June 30, 2010, Ford's foundation had granted a total of $37,294.68 to four different high schools.
"In contrast to the on-line claim made on the councillor's election website, the information provided establishes that at no time has the Football Foundation had over $100,000.00 available for grants," Leiper said.
"Councillor Ford said he had included amounts he had personally provided before setting up the Football Foundation and that he was willing to change the claim on his website to make it accurate."
As of Friday evening, the "raised more than $100,000" claim remained on Ford's site.
Leiper wants council, which will consider the matter next week, to order Ford to repay $2,750 to lobbyists who donated to his foundation and another $400 to a corporation.
"Such a sanction would convey council’s expectation that Councillor Ford is responsible for ensuring that he does not ask for or receive benefits in violation of the Code of Conduct and that he will be held accountable by council for such violations," Leiper said.
"It would also reflect the importance of a councillor not using the influence of office for personal causes."
Leiper noted this was the fifth report to council regarding Code of Conduct breaches by Ford.
Leiper's report is the latest in what has been a week of bad news for Ford, the presumed frontrunner in the race to become the city's next mayor when Torontonians go to the polls on Oct. 25.
On Thursday, Ford held a news conference to address a 1999 arrest in Florida for refusing to take a breathalyzer test and for possession of a marijuana cigarette (a charge later dropped).
Ford had originally denied ever being criminally charged in Florida.
In 2006, he had initially denied being drunk and abusive at a Toronto Maple Leafs hockey game.
During a Tuesday night mayoral debate on CP24, Ford came under fire for appearing to oppose the acceptance of more refugees and immigrants in the city.
Although Ford had a tough week, Ryerson University professor Mitchell Kosny thinks Ford has a strong core of supporters who like his resolve to reduce spending and cut taxes.
"I think the support he's got isn't going to waver. He's the guy who's going to save your nickels and dimes and help," he said.
But collectively, these problems could raise doubts in less-committed voters about whether Ford can be trusted with power, Kosny said.
With a report from CTV Toronto's Michelle Dube