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Ford, Taverner, Saunders met for dinner months before OPP appointment
Premier Doug Ford had a private dinner with Toronto Police Superintendent Ron Taverner and Police Chief Mark Saunders four months before Taverner was appointed OPP commissioner, according to Ford’s schedule.
The private calendar maintained by the Premier’s Office shows the three men sat down at Posticino, a high-end Italian restaurant in Etobicoke, for 90 minutes on July 30th.
The meeting came five days after Ford sat down with then-OPP commissioner Vince Hawkes, who announced his retirement in early September.
Ford’s schedule, which is not released to the public, was obtained by the NDP through a freedom-of-information request and distributed to the media. Neither the Premier’s Office nor the Toronto PoliceServicehave responded to questions regarding the purpose of the dinner or whether anyone else was present at the time.
Sylvia Jones, Ontario’s solicitor general, says the dinner doesn’t “in any way” leave her with concerns because the premier constantly attends meetings.
“The premier meets with literally hundreds of people in the course of a week.” Jones told reporters. “Where he meets and who he meets is something that is very open to public scrutiny.”
The portion of the schedule released to the media from July 25th until the 30th shows a range of public events attended by Ford as well as phone calls made to U.S. governors.
Other than civil servants and Premier’s office staff, the only official meetings scheduled during that period were with Hawkes, Taverner, Saunders and Mike McCormick, President of the Toronto Police Association.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath questions why Ford dined with Taverner five days after meeting with Hawkes and whether the Premier was aware of Hawkes’s intention to retire.
“Was the issue discussed that there would be a vacancy at the OPP commissioner’s level?” Horwath asked “These are questions that Mr. Ford should answer.”
The dinner adds another layer of questions to an appointment that is already shrouded in controversy.
Ontario’s integrity commissioner David Wake has launched an inquiry into whether the premier broke any conflict rules by appointing an old family friend to the post and the official opposition is calling for a public inquiry into the matter.
On Saturday,Taverner asked to have his appointment to the force delayed until after the integrity commissioner is finished with his investigation.
One day later,Taverner rescinded his resignation from Toronto police, which Saunders accepted,allowing Taverner to resume his old job as superintendent.
Ford has denied any interference in the interview or appointment process.