The mayor's latest legal entanglement is just one of many.
Mayor Rob Ford has found himself in so many scrapes that it’s becoming difficult to keep them all straight.
Here’s a history of formal complaints that have been lodged against Ford in the two years or so since he became a mayoral candidate. Originally published in September, it’s been updated to reflect new developments as of May 2013. An infographic is above (click for a zoomed-in view) and the full timeline is after the jump.
But first, a note of explanation. Over the course of his mayoralty, Rob Ford has faced five types of formal complaints, all of which are represented here. There were lawsuits, which are legal proceedings brought under provincial and federal law and argued in court. There was a compliance audit, which is a financial probe brought about under the aegis of the City. There were integrity investigations, which are probes into alleged violations of city council’s code of conduct, carried out by the City’s integrity commissioner, Janet Leiper. There was a report from the City’s ombudsman, Fiona Crean, whose job is to investigate instances of administrative unfairness. And now, Ford faces a bylaw complaint, which will be investigated by the City’s Municipal Licensing and Standards division.
This timeline includes all the formal complaints against Ford that we’re aware of, as well as one that was on the verge of becoming formal. Each of these cases is full of minutiae. We’ve only included the highlights.
If you notice anything missing, or any errors in what’s here, let us know.
Boardwalk Pub Libel Suit
May 11, 2010: Council gives final approval to a 21-year lease extension for Tuggs Incorporated, the company that has operated the Boardwalk Pub in Woodbine Beach Park under contract to the City since 1986. The extension is controversial because it hasn’t been put out to competitive bids, contrary to advice from City staff.
July 29, 2010: During an on-air interview, Newstalk 1010 host Jerry Agar asks then-mayoral-candidate Rob Ford if he thinks someone involved in the Tuggs deal is “getting money under the table,” implying that bribery played a role in council’s decision to sole-source the contract. “I truly believe they are,” says Ford. He can’t articulate his reasons for thinking so, he says, because the council vote was taken in private session.
August 11, 2010: The Toronto Sun runs a story in which Ford is quoted as saying that closed, confidential meetings—like the one at which council decided to award Tuggs its new contract—are characterized by “corruption and skullduggery.” Ford is also quoted as saying the Tuggs deal “stinks to high heaven.” The article strongly implies that Ford believes the deal “smacks of civic corruption,” though it doesn’t quote him saying that. It also implies that Tuggs owner George Foulidis’ campaign donations to then-Councillor Sandra Bussin (Ward 32, Beaches-East York) helped him land the lease extension.
September 16, 2010: Fed up with Ford’s insinuations, Foulidis informs the media that he intends to sue the candidate for libel, unless Ford apologizes.
October 12, 2010: Ford is formally served. The statement of claim says Foulidis is seeking $6 million in damages and costs.
October 5, 2012: After almost two years of delay, during which Ford’s lawyers tried to get the suit dismissed as an abuse of process, a pretrial hearing is held at the University Avenue courthouse.
November 13, 2012: The case goes to trial. The exact meaning of Ford’s words during his interview with the Sun becomes a key issue. Under questioning by Brian Shiller, the prosecuting attorney, Ford tries to defend his “corruption and skullduggery” comment. Eventually, he all but admits that he was referring to Tuggs when he said those words.
December 27, 2012: Ontario Superior Court Justice John Macdonald dismisses the suit against Ford, reasoning that Ford’s statements fell short of libel. The judge also took issue with the fact that Foulidis was unable to prove, definitively, that he was actually the chief officer of Tuggs (his name wasn’t on the official company profile).
Toronto Star (Integrity Investigation Request)
July 13, 2010: The Toronto Star publishes an article that contains allegations that then-Councillor Rob Ford had been asked to stop coaching a high school football team in 2001, following a confrontation (a physical one, according to some but not all of the Star’s sources) with a student player. After the article is published, Ford publicly disputes its truthfulness. Through his lawyers, he files a notice of intent to sue the Star for libel, but later allows the suit to lapse before anything can come of it.
August 20, 2010: Ford’s then-press secretary, Adrienne Batra, confirms to the Toronto Sun that Ford’s campaign will no longer be talking to the Star, as a result of the article. Once Ford becomes mayor, he continues this policy, and his office doesn’t send press releases to Toronto Star reporters.
February 8, 2011: The City Hall press gallery collectively sends a letter to Mayor Ford’s office, saying that they oppose “any attempts by politicians or staff to boycott, spurn or sideline any media outlet or journalist by restricting the flow of official information.” The Star isn’t mentioned by name, but the implication is clear.
November 1, 2011: Ford’s executive committee votes down a motion by Councillor Adam Vaughan (Ward 20, Trinity-Spadina) that would have prohibited City officials from excluding particular journalists or news outlets from media events and press releases.
December, 2011: The Star files a complaint with the integrity commissioner. They want a probe into the appropriateness of the mayor’s continued snubs. In an article for the paper, Torstar chair John Honderich writes that, “Quite simply, the mayor must be held to account for this.”
April 3, 2013: City council considers the integrity commissioner’s report on the Star‘s complaint. The report concludes that Ford didn’t breach council’s code of conduct by keeping the newspaper at arm’s length. The report also says it’s unclear whether the City’s rules permit corporations like the Star to bring integrity complaints against Toronto’s municipal politicians.
Improper Donations (Integrity Investigation)
August 20, 2010: The integrity commissioner releases a report in response to a complaint about then-councillor Ford’s methods of raising money for his private charity, the Rob Ford Football Foundation. The commissioner finds that by using his office letterhead to solicit donations for the foundation, Ford had violated City rules that prevent politicians from using office resources and political influence for personal ends. Also in violation of the code of conduct, he had accepted donations from lobbyists, their clients, and a corporation that does business with the City.
August 25, 2010: City council approves the integrity commissioner’s recommended sanction: that Ford be required to pay back the improper corporate and lobbyist donations, at a cost of $3,150.
July 7, 2011: Jude MacDonald, a freelance writer and former editor-in-chief of Rabble.ca, files a complaint with the integrity commissioner about the suspiciously low totals on Rob Ford’s office-expense disclosure reports. The mayor, like all members of council, is required to report all office spending (including out-of-pocket spending). Ford’s office expenses in the first quarter of 2011, according to his disclosure records, were just $1,718.46.
February 2012: The integrity commissioner determined that Ford didn’t actually breach the council’s code of conduct in this case.
Election Finance Compliance Audit
April 6, 2011: Municipal-affairs journalist John Lorinc publishes an article in the Globe and Mail that points out an interesting feature of financial disclosure filings by Ford’s mayoral campaign: they appear to show that the campaign effectively borrowed $69,722.31 from Doug Ford Holdings, a corporation whose directors include Rob Ford and his brother, Doug. Lorinc provides evidence that the campaign may have broken the law by accepting the loan.
May 4, 2011: Adam Chaleff-Freudenthaler and Max Reed—the former an activist and the latter a lawyer—file for a compliance audit of Ford’s campaign finances. Their brief in support of the audit takes inspiration from Lorinc’s work, but also builds on it in many significant ways. They point out that the campaign may have exceeded its legal spending limits, and that it may have illegally borrowed $77,722 from Doug Ford Holdings, among other alleged violations of the Municipal Elections Act. (Disclosure: Chaleff-Freudenthaler is in a personal relationship with Torontoist editor Hamutal Dotan. She was not involved in the writing of this article, and provided no editorial direction to its author.)
May 13, 2011: The City’s Compliance Audit Committee unanimously agrees with Chaleff-Freudenthaler and Reed that Ford’s election expenses should be audited. They give the process their go-ahead.
May 30, 2011: Ford’s lawyers file an appeal with the Ontario Court of Justice seeking a reversal of the committee’s decision to push ahead with the audit. The following day, Chaleff-Freudenthaler and Reed announce that they have found some lawyers of their own: two partners from the firm of Paliare Roland, who have agreed to work pro bono.
December 23, 2011: Ford’s lawyers file a motion with the court seeking to have the committee’s authorization of the audit thrown out, so Ford can introduce new evidence.
April 5, 2012: A few court dates later, Ford announces, through his press secretary, that he has instructed his lawyers to put a stop to the appeal. In the press release, Ford is quoted as saying that he will “co-operate fully with any auditor appointed by the City.”
February 1, 2013: Froese Forensic Partners releases a report that details a number of apparent financial violations committed by Ford’s campaign. Among other things, the auditors say Ford appears to have spent $40,168 more than his legally mandated campaign spending limit (which was about $1.3 million).
February 25, 2013: The City’s compliance audit committee decides not to call in a special prosecutor to press charges against Ford, effectively letting him off the hook.
Improper Use of Office Phone Number (Integrity Investigation Request)
March 25, 2012: On the weekly radio talk show he hosts with his brother Doug, Rob Ford, still reeling from council’s final rebuke of his plan for a Sheppard subway extension the week prior, says that he will be attempting to assemble a slate of likeminded council candidates to unseat his opponents on council in the 2014 municipal election. He asks any Torontonians interested in running with his blessing to call him, and then he reads out his office phone number.
March 27, 2012: Through the media, Councillor Josh Matlow (Ward 22, St. Paul’s) complains that Mayor Ford, by giving out his office phone number, had violated city council’s code of conduct, which forbids members from using office resources for electioneering.
March 28, 2012: Before the integrity commissioner has an opportunity to launch a formal investigation, Ford apologizes publicly—not for threatening to unseat his colleagues, but only for giving out the wrong phone number. In a written statement, he says it had been his intention to invite listeners to contact him on his personal line.
The Latest: After Ford’s apology, Matlow dropped the matter. The integrity commissioner has released no report on the incident.
Medical Officer of Health (Integrity Investigation Request)
April 29, 2012: It’s the day before Dr. David McKeown, Toronto’s medical officer of health, is set to recommend to the City’s Board of Health that councillors consider lowering speed limits across Toronto in order to improve road safety. Rob and Doug Ford, on their Sunday radio talk show, take the opportunity to lash out at the proposal. The mayor calls the idea “nuts, nuts, nuts,” and McKeown’s $290,000 salary “ridiculous.” Doug Ford wonders aloud, “Why does he [that is, McKeown] even have a job?”
May 3, 2012: Councillor John Filion (Ward 23, Willowdale), chair of the Toronto Board of Health, tells reporters he will file a complaint with the integrity commissioner if both Fords don’t apologize for their comments.
November 1, 2012: The integrity commissioner’s report on the incident goes before council. It says that Ford did, in fact, violate council’s code of conduct by “demeaning the professional reputation” of the medical officer of health. In a separate report, the commissioner writes that Doug Ford has also violated the code of conduct.
Initially, the commissioner had recommended that council punish the Ford brothers by formally reprimanding both of them, but Doug had apologized for his statements a few days prior while being interviewed on AM640. This turns out to be enough to earn him a reprieve. The commissioner rescinds her recommendation that the Ward 2 councillor be reprimanded.
Rob, meanwhile, still hasn’t apologized in a way the commissioner finds acceptable. Even so, council decides to delay decisions on this and all future integrity matters until there has been a decision in Ford’s conflict-of-interest suit. The reason for the deferral has to do with the various legal questions the suit raises about whether councillors are entitled to participate in debates over integrity commissioner’s reports about themselves. Nobody wants to test the limits of their freedom of speech in council chambers until they’re sure they can’t be sued.
February 14, 2013 The integrity commissioner issues a new report saying that Rob Ford had apologized to McKeown a few days prior. The commissioner rescinds her recommendation that Ford be reprimanded.
Conflict of Interest Suit
February 1, 2012: The integrity commissioner releases a follow-up to her earlier report on improper donations to the Rob Ford Football Foundation. To date, she writes, Ford has not paid back any of the money donated by lobbyists and corporations.
February 7, 2012: Council votes on the matter again. This time, they decide to reverse their earlier decision. Ford is officially absolved of all financial responsibility for his breach of conduct. But he makes a procedural mistake: rather than recuse himself, he speaks and votes on the item.
March 12, 2012: Seizing on Ford’s apparent conflict of interest (by voting, he gave the appearance of using his political power to sway a matter in which he had a financial interest), Paul Magder, a Toronto resident, brings a lawsuit against the mayor accusing him of violating the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. At a press conference, Magder is overshadowed by his lawyer, Clayton Ruby, who is an attorney well known for his involvement in constitutional and civil liberties cases. The pair make it known that they are seeking to remove Ford from office.
June 28, 2012: Ford sits for a deposition with Ruby, resulting in a 150-page transcript in which the mayor is quoted as saying he doesn’t believe he violated the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act. His understanding, according to the transcript, was that he was in the clear, because the transaction in question didn’t benefit the City.
September 5, 2012: Ford takes the witness stand and is cross examined by Ruby. The mayor repeatedly claims not to be familiar with the basics of conflict-of-interest law. Instead, he espouses a strange, incorrect view of what actually constitutes a conflict of interest. His belief, he says, is that a conflict can only exist when both a councillor and the City stand to benefit from a transaction.
September 6, 2012: The court hears closing arguments both from Ruby and from Ford’s Lawyer, Alan Lenczner.
November 26, 2012: Hackland releases his verdict, which condemns Ford for his “wilful blindness” and orders him removed from office, after a 14-day stay.
December 5, 2012: Divisonal Court Justice Gladys Pardu extends Ford’s stay, meaning he can remain mayor until he has finished appealing Hackland’s verdict.
January 7, 2013: Ford’s case goes to Divisional Court. Justices Edward Then, Lynne Leitch, and Katherine Swinton preside.
January 25, 2013: The Divisional Court releases its decision, which overturns Hackland’s earlier decision, restoring Ford to the mayoralty permanently. Some legal experts had predicted that Ford would lose his appeal, so this outcome is considered surprising.
March 15, 2013: Clayton Ruby’s office files for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. The Supreme Court accepts only a small minority of cases, so this is considered a long shot.
The Latest: The Supreme Court has yet to say whether or not it will hear the case.
Improper Use of City Resources (Integrity Investigation Request)
September 12, 2012: The Globe publishes an article by Kelly Grant that calls attention to the fact that some of Ford’s junior staff members appear to help the mayor with his volunteer duties as a high-school football coach. Because the staff members are on the City payroll, this raises suspicions that Ford has, yet again, violated City rules against misuse of resources.
September 13, 2012: Jude MacDonald, the former Rabble.ca editor who complained about Ford’s office spending disclosure in 2011, registers a second complaint with the integrity commissioner. This time, she wants an investigation into Ford’s use of his staff for non-City business.
The Latest: The integrity commissioner has the complaint, but has yet to act on it publicly.
Compromising the Civic-Appointments Process (Ombudsman’s Report)
September 27, 2012: Toronto’s ombudsman, Fiona Crean, releases a report that details how, in 2011, the mayor’s office interfered in the process of appointing citizen members to the boards of City agencies. The report says the mayor’s staff first delayed the appointments process, then demanded that it be accelerated. Also in the report is evidence that the mayor’s staff tried to get its preferred candidates onto certain boards, including the Police Services Board and the Toronto Public Library Board.
All of these shenanigans were, by the admission of an anonymous Ford staffer interviewed by Crean, intended to give the mayor’s office greater control over the City’s finances, by ensuring that fewer Miller-era civic appointees would be voting on agency budgets.
Crean concluded that Ford’s meddling “compromised” the appointments process by putting City staff under such strict time constraints that they couldn’t follow the City’s own appointments policy.
October 4, 2012: City council considers Crean’s report. Some councillors grill her about weak points in her investigation, notably the absence of written evidence that the mayor’s office had favourite candidates for certain board spots. Ultimately, council decides to take the ombudsman’s advice and direct City staff to change the way Toronto administers its civic-appointments process. The hope is that this will prevent similar problems in the future.
October 25, 2012: Crean makes public a follow-up report, in which she writes that the City Manager’s office has sent her a new piece of evidence: the mayor’s office’s written list of preferred candidates for certain board spots. Crean writes that, despite the new discovery, she stands by the conclusions in her previous report.
Car Magnets (Municipal Licensing and Standards Investigation)
May 14, 2013: Ford attends a community consultation meeting on a controversial proposal to redevelop Etobicoke’s Humbertown Shopping Centre into several hundred condos and townhouses. Minutes after arriving, according to the Star, Ford “bolts” out of his seat and out into the parking lot of the church where the meeting is being held. He begins sticking “Rob Ford Mayor” magnets on cars.
May 16, 2013: The Star learns that a Toronto resident has complained to the City’s Municipal Licensing and Standards division about Ford’s behaviour. The resident’s allegation is that Ford has violated a municipal bylaw that forbids putting handbills on vehicles.
The Latest: Municipal Licensing and Standards is investigating the complaint.
This article originally misspelled Paul Magder’s surname.
This article originally said that the integrity commissioner had not yet issued a report to council in response to Jude MacDonald’s complaint about the mayor’s office spending. In fact, the reason the commissioner hadn’t issued a report is that she had already dismissed MacDonald’s allegations when this article was first published.
This article originally misidentified the park in which the Boardwalk Pub is located. It’s Woodbine Beach Park, not Ashbridges Bay Park. Also misstated was the length of the pub’s lease extension. It’s 21 years less a day, not 20 years.
This post originally said that Mayor Rob Ford was quoted in a Toronto Sun article as saying that a deal between the City and Tuggs, Inc. was characterized by “corruption and skullduggery.” In fact, the mayor, when he said those words, appears to have been referring more generally to all decisions made in closed sessions like the one at which council awarded Tuggs its contract—or at any rate, it’s impossible to speculate on his exact meaning. The post has been altered to reflect this.