Mayor remains mum on allegations but drops chief of staff
Sandie Benitah and Chris Fox, cp24.com
Published Thursday, May 23, 2013 10:35AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, May 23, 2013 9:42PM EDT
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has left city hall for the day, once again without addressing explosive allegations made against him.
Ford managed to avoid a large throng of reporters outside his office by slipping out a side door while his brother, Coun. Doug Ford, addressed the media.
Doug Ford spoke briefly, telling reporters the mayor still supports the Don Bosco football team, despite being dropped as coach of the team yesterday afternoon.
Coun. Ford also said he would not address the firing of the mayor’s chief of staff earlier in the afternoon.
Both Mark Towhey and the mayor’s office confirmed he was asked to step down from the role Thursday afternoon.
The reason for Towhey's departure is not known. Ford's office released an official statement about an hour after Towhey was escorted out of the building by security.
“Effective immediately, Mark Towhey is no longer working in the Office of the Mayor,” the statement said.
“Mr. Towhey has been (an) intricate part of the Mayor's Office and has made many valuable contributions.
The Mayor thanks Mr. Towhey for his valuable service and wishes him the very best in his future endeavours.”
Earl Provost, the mayor’s Deputy Chief of Staff, is now the Acting Chief of Staff, according to the mayor’s office.
Approached by reporters as he left city hall Thursday afternoon, Towhey said he wasn't surprised by the move which comes as some councillors ratchet up their calls for Ford to address the unsubstantiated allegations that have created a massive controversy at city hall since they were first published the evening of May 16.
That’s when the Toronto Star alleged that two of its reporters had viewed cellphone video that appeared to show the mayor smoking from a glass pipe.
The Star reported that it had been approached by Somali drug dealers who wanted to sell the video for a six-figure sum. The newspaper declined and the alleged video has not yet surfaced. A reporter with Gawker published
Asked about the allegations last Friday, Ford said the allegations are “ridiculous” and” absolutely not true” but he has not made any further comment on the matter and on Wednesday refused to answer questions when a CTV reporter approached him inside a gas station near his home.
When he was asked what kind of advice he had been giving the mayor, Towhey was silent.
"My advice to the mayor is for the mayor," he said in the city hall parking garage before getting into his vehicle.
Towhey had served as Ford's chief of staff since August.
Councillors express shock
Speaking with reporters after news of Towhey's departure broke, Coun. Jaye Robinson said she was "shocked." and said she believed it had "something to do with football."
"It's not a strategic move at this time to fire your chief of staff when we are dealing with these allegations," she said. "There is a lot of turmoil right now and the timing is highly inappropriate."
Mayor Ford’s ally on council, Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday told CP24 he too was shocked by the turn of events.
“I didn’t see this coming,” he said.
Holyday said he spoke to Towhey last night about the accusations made against the mayor.
“We spoke about what’s going on, what I thought about the matter and what he thought about the matter,” Holyday said, without going into detail.
When he was asked what he thinks what will happen next at council, he said, “Heaven only knows.”
The mayor’s self-imposed silence comes as Jon Stewart, Jay Leno and Jimmy Kimmel poked fun at the mayor on late night television.
“When the international media and the late night talk shows are focusing on the latest folly coming out of the mayor’s office it doesn’t do a good service for Toronto, so I hope the mayor will come forward and address this,” Coun. Josh Matlow told CP24 Thursday morning. “He needs to put Toronto before himself and help us move forward. We will see if that actually happens.”
Though the mayor has refused to answer questions about the allegations, his brother Coun. Doug Ford did deliver a prepared statement on Wednesday afternoon, telling reporters that he believes his brother when he says the allegations are “untrue” and “ridiculous.”
“It is not good enough just to get your brother to go do press conferences. My sister doesn’t do statements on my behalf. That would be bizarre frankly,” Matlow said Thursday. “He (Rob Ford) has a personal responsibility to clear this up. If he didn’t do any of these things then tell us that, explain why and articulate why you think these allegations are wrong.”
Coun. Ana Bailo, however, told CP24 during an interview at City Hall Thursday morning, that the mayor should instead listen to Torontonians.
“If there is one (piece of) advice that I have it is listen to your heart and your conscience and listen to the public opinion more than lawyers,” she said. “I think the end result will be better.”
Gawker can't reach video owner
A reporter with the U.S. website Gawker, who has also claims see have seen the video in question, published an update Thursday evening, saying that he has been unable to make contact with the person who is selling the video.
The last time he was able to make contact with the seller was Sunday, said reporter John Cook.
He also warned those who have been contributing to the so-called "Crackstarter" campaign, a crowdsourcing initiative that has seen the public donate more than $159,000 towards the Gawker's $200,000 goal -- the money reportedly requested by the dealers in return for the video.
"If you are considering contributing, you should be aware that our confidence that we can get a deal done has, on account of the foregoing, diminished since we came up with this idea," he posted on the website. "This doesn't mean that it won't happen, or that we won't get a call in ten minutes, or that the publication of this post won't spur the owner of the video to reach out and re-affirm his interest in selling it. But this is where we are at."
The campaign got a major boost Thursday night when an anonymous donor contributed $10,000 towards the cause. In exchange, Gawker has promised this person the actual phone that recorded the alleged video.
Radio show expected to go ahead
Meanwhile, the mayor and his brother will indeed host this Sunday's edition of their weekly radio show.
Their afternoon radio show on Newstalk1010 called “The City with Mayor Rob Ford” was cancelled last week.
Contacted by CP24 Thursday, an official with the station said the show will go ahead this Sunday with Doug Ford and “likely” Rob Ford present.
The show will air between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
@SandieBenitah is on Twitter. Remember for instant breaking news follow @cp24 on Twitter.