Ford calls groping allegations 'completely false'
Chris Fox and Sandie Benitah, cp24.com
Published Friday, March 8, 2013 10:48AM EST
Last Updated Friday, March 8, 2013 4:47PM EST
A Richmond Hill councillor says he warned Sarah Thomson against “setting up” the mayor at a political event Thursday night.
Richmond Hill Coun. Greg Beros told CP24 he was standing with a group of colleagues when Sarah Thomson approached the group and alleged she had been groped by Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.
He said Thomson then told a friend she was with that they should approach the mayor again in an effort to get the mayor to touch her inappropriately.
“I overheard her saying to her friend, who incidentally was named Sarah as well ‘We need to go upstairs and stage a photo with the mayor touching your rear-end. It will be great for the campaign,’” Beros said. “It was a very animated conversation. She was very excited.”
The group was at the Acadian Court for an annual event put on by the Canadian Jewish Public Affairs Committee Thursday night.
Beros’ colleague confirmed his version of events in an interview with CP24. Coun. Carmine Perrelli said Thomson went up to the group and introduced herself as a mayoral candidate before telling them about the alleged inappropriate exchange. Then, about an hour later during another conversation, she turned to her friend and made the comment about setting up a new photo with the mayor, Perrelli said.
Perrelli said he followed the women upstairs where the mayor was surrounded by a large number of people who wanted to take a photo with him.
He said he saw Thomson take a photo of her friend with the mayor but the mayor's hand was on her shoulder the entire time.
Perrelli said he also notified security at the event of what Thomson had said.
Thomson, who ran for mayor against Ford in 2010 and is rumoured to be a potential candidate in the next municipal election, wrote a post explaining her side of the story on her personal Facebook page Thursday night.
She then repeated her allegations to CP24 Friday morning, saying she first approached the mayor to discuss transit.
“I went up to him to ask why he wasn’t able to make our mayor’s roundtable that we had last week and he said he was in Florida, his wife wasn’t there and that I should have been there and I kind of did a double take and then when we posed for a picture he grabbed my ass,” Thomson said Friday morning. “I was shocked because normally Rob would never do that. It’s not him.”
Ford did travel to Florida on Feb. 27; CP24's cameras were at Pearson International Airport when the mayor departed and spotted his wife and children by his side as they all went through the security gate.
In a statement released Friday afternoon, Ford unequivocally denied Thomson’s allegations.
“Early this morning, false allegations were made regarding a number of disgusting actions," he said. "I am shocked, dismayed and surprised. I can say without hesitation that they are absolutely, completely false.
"What is more surprising is that a woman who has aspired to be a civic leader would cry wolf on a day where we should be celebrating women across the globe,” he added, noting that today is International Women’s Day. "This is a day we should all take the time to reflect upon the women in our lives and in our society. It is a day when we can envision the changes we want to make in our communities to ensure that all people are equal and that violence and discrimination against women comes to an end.”
In response to Ford's statement, Thomson said she may speak to a lawyer, and is disappointed that he didn't offer an apology but not surprised by his denial.
“He's said that every time he is accused of something, so I expected that from him," Thomson told CP24 commentator Stephen LeDrew. "I was hoping he might reconsider and admit and just say he was sorry, but that didn’t happen.”
Thomson told LeDrew that while she didn't think the mayor was under the influence of alcohol, something was "wrong" with him.
"I don't know what substance he was under," she said.
Beros and Perrelli said the mayor did not appear to be under the influence of any substance at all.
"Not at all," Beros said. "Ford was polite and congenial."
Beros said he met the mayor for the first time Thursday night while Perrelli said he had met him once before.
"I gave him a hug and I didn't smell alcohol on his breath," Perrelli said. "Between photos he would wipe his brow. It was really hot up there."
Chief of staff defends Ford
Ford’s chief of staff Mark Towhey was also in attendance at the event and told Newstalk 1010 that he was within earshot of Ford all night and didn’t hear him say anything inappropriate or see the alleged assault.
Towhey added that city staff and Ford are in “discussions” with legal counsel to determine an “appropriate course of action.” He would not say whether Ford would consider a libel lawsuit.
“I know that my staff never heard any of the comments that are alleged, I know that the mayor was in Florida with his wife and children last week and I know that I was about 20 feet away watching most of this happen and I saw her (Thompson) move into the circle for the photographs and she was happy and laughing when she walked away from that crowd,” Towhey said. “I also know that at no time did she talk to me or any of my staff about any concerns or issues that she had with the mayor.”
Asked if she will look to press criminal charges against the mayor, Thomson told CP24 that she just wants an apology.
“I don’t believe it needs to go that far," Thomson said. "I just want an apology and to move on. He’s got my number and he can call me.”
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