Toronto mayor not quitting, despite drug video
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford faced accusations in May that he had been caught on video puffing from a glass crack pipe.
The Associated Press
TORONTO — A dormant scandal over Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s suspected drug use flared anew Thursday when city police said they had obtained a video that appears to show Ford smoking a crack pipe, a video Ford had claimed didn’t exist.
Police Chief Bill Blair said the video, recovered Tuesday after being deleted from a computer hard drive, did not provide grounds to press charges. Ford, a populist mayor who has repeatedly made headlines for his bizarre behavior, vowed not to resign.
Outside his office, Ford said with a smile: “I have no reason to resign.” He said he couldn’t defend himself because the affair is part of a criminal investigation involving an associate.
Toronto police discovered the video while conducting a surveillance operation into a friend and sometimes driver suspected of providing Ford with drugs.
Ford faced accusations in May that he had been caught on video puffing from a glass crack pipe. The blog Gawker and the Toronto Star both reported that their employees had been shown the video several times by a man who was trying to sell it. A subsequent attempt by Gawker to buy the video failed, and Ford has repeatedly denied using crack and said no such video existed.
The scandal has cast Canada’s largest city and financial capital in an unflattering light.
Ford was elected mayor three years ago on a wave of discontent simmering in the city’s outlying suburbs. Since then he has survived an attempt to remove him from office on conflict-of-interest charges and has appeared in the news for his increasingly odd behavior. Through it all, the mayor has repeatedly refused to resign.
But the pressure ramped up Thursday with all four major dailies in the city calling on Ford to resign.
On Thursday, Blair said the video of the mayor “depicts images that are consistent with those previously reported in the press.”
He said the video will come out when Ford’s associate and occasional driver, Alexander Lisi, goes to trial on drug charges. Lisi also faces extortion charges for trying to retrieve the recording from an unidentified person. Blair did not say who owned the computer containing the video.
The prosecutor in the Lisi case released documents Thursday showing that police conducted a massive surveillance operation monitoring the mayor and Lisi following drug-use accusations.
The police documents, ordered released by a judge, show Ford receiving packages from Lisi on several occasions. “Lisi approached the driver’s side of the Mayor’s vehicle with a small white gift bag in hand; he then walked around to the passenger side and got on board,” reads one document dated July 30, 2013. “After a few minutes Lisi exited the Escalade empty-handed and walked back to his Range Rover.”
On Aug. 13, documents say Lisi and Ford met and “made their way into a secluded area of the adjacent woods where they were obscured from surveillance efforts and stayed for approximately one hour.”
Ford recently vouched for Lisi in a separate criminal case, praising his leadership skills and hard work in a letter filed with the court. The letter was part of a report prepared by a probation officer after Lisi was convicted of threatening to kill a woman.
Ford’s controversies range from the trivial to the serious: Walking face-first into a TV camera. Falling down during a photo op while pretending to play football. Being asked to leave an event for wounded war vets because he appeared intoxicated, according to the Toronto Star, and making rude gestures at Torontonians from his car.