November 7, 2013

Toronto mayor defies advice to make a dignified exit

Rob Ford, who admitted to smoking crack-cocaine after being caught in a video, refuses to take a temporary leave.

The Associated Press

TORONTO — Toronto's embattled mayor on Wednesday rejected the advice of city council allies to take a temporary leave of absence, returning to work a day after acknowledging he had smoked crack.

click image to enlarge

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford talks to a staff member at city hall Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013 in Toronty. City councilors called on the deputy mayor to "orchestrate a dignified" departure for Ford, who was greeted by angry protesters on his first day of work after acknowledging he smoked crack. Ford took a back stairway to his office to avoid a crush of media and protestors. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Chris Young)

Deepening the crisis, Rob Ford's long-time policy adviser resigned, continuing an exodus that started in May when news reports emerged of a video showing the mayor smoking what appears to be crack. Police announced last week they had a copy of the video, which has not been released publicly.

After months of evading the question, Ford acknowledged for the first time Tuesday that he smoked crack "probably a year ago" when he was in a "drunken stupor." But he has refused to step aside despite immense pressure.

Ford arrived at City Hall just past noon on Wednesday but took a back stairway to his office to avoid a crush of media.

The mayor later blew a kiss to members of the media as he gave a tour of his office to school children.

More than 200 people protested outside City Hall.

"Hey hey! Ho ho! Rob Ford has got to go!" they chanted.

City Councilor James Pasternak said the controversy consuming Canada's largest city cannot go on day after day. He said several city councilors asked Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly to approach Ford and "orchestrate a dignified exit from city hall."

Kelly met with Ford and suggested he take a temporary leave until later this year or early next year, but Ford rejected that idea. Councilor Frances Nunziata, also a Ford ally, said they are all frustrated Ford won't step aside temporarily.

"We're trying to give him sound advice as supporters," she said. "He needs to listen and he's not listening and I'm very disappointed."

Nunziata said Ford needs to get help but only he can make that decision.

Kelly earlier said Ford didn't tell anyone he would admit to smoking crack before he did so Tuesday.

"It came right out of the blue," said Kelly, who learned about it from a member of Ford's staff after the mayor stopped on his way to his office to tell reporters. "I was like, 'What? What have you been smoking?'"

There is no clear legal path for Ford's critics to force him out. Municipal law makes no provision for the mayor's forced removal from office unless he is convicted and jailed for a criminal offense. Police have not charged Ford.

"He has stubbornly refused to listen to everyone across the city to step down," Councilor Janet Davis said.

Nelson Wiseman, a professor at the University of Toronto, said the province of Ontario could conceivably step in and put Toronto under trusteeship because municipalities are under provincial jurisdiction. He said the chances of that happening are "slim to none," though it might be possible if Ford is charged with a crime and almost all the city councilors plead for Ford to step aside in a motion.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has said she's concerned that Ford's personal issues were making it difficult for the city to carry on normally. But she said it was up to police, the courts or the mayor to take action.

City Councilor Denzil Minnan-Wong, a member of Ford's executive committee, is putting forward a motion that would ask Ford to take a leave of absence, a measure that could be voted on next Wednesday.

Another councilor is putting forward a motion that could strip some of his powers.

(Continued on page 2)

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