Toronto Mayor Rob Ford insists he did nothing wrong when he approached senior city officials to have the road in front of his family business paved in time for a company celebration, calling anyone who suggests he received preferential treatment "an outright liar."
The mayor was responding to revelations that he met with the head of the transportation department and the deputy city manager to request that repairs be carried out on a stretch of Greensboro Drive, where the headquarters of his family business Deco Labels is located.
'It couldn't have happened at a worse time … there's no question about that.' — Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong
Ford told reporters Friday that the road was very much in need of repairs, and they were a long time coming.
"Potholes should be fixed in the city between three and five days. We waited three to four years. And whoever is saying we jumped the queue is an outright liar," he said.
"Deco didn't get any preferential treatment here."
"We went out there and got the potholes fixed. What is the prudent thing to do when you're hosting a party — you want someone to twist their ankle on a city road? No. Because then we'd be sued," he said. "The taxpayers had to pay obviously to fix the road, but that had to be done anyways."
John Mende, acting general manager of the city's Transportation Services department, confirmed his department was asked by the mayor's staff to fix the road ahead of Deco's 50th anniversary celebrations.
Mende said he and his staff met with Ford staffers in mid-July and that the work was completed by early August.
He told CBC News the work performed on Greensboro was routine maintenance, not paving, and included fixing potholes, replacing clogged catch basins and cutting back weeds from the roadside. He added that his department often tries to complete such requests from businesses ahead of special events.
"We do this for special events all the time to make sure the road is in a safe condition for users," he told CBC.
Ford said there is "no pothole schedule" and asserted he has helped homeowners and businesses by calling on their behalf with regards to road repairs.
When asked by CBC's Amanda Margison if he was concerned about the optics of the situation, Ford retorted, "There is no optics," before walking away with his aides and his brother, Coun. Doug Ford.
"Why don't you try calling on your street? And we'll be there in five days, OK?," Doug Ford told Margison. "The only thing that's a waste of taxpayers' money is the CBC."
Earlier in the day, Ford came under fire from one of his staunchest allies on council about the affair.
Ford under pressure
"It couldn't have happened at a worse time … there's no question about that. The mayor needs to be exceedingly careful about how he conducts his affairs. It's hurting the agenda that he was elected on," Coun. Denzil Minnan-Wong said on CBC's Metro Morning on Friday.
When asked if he had any advice for the mayor, Minnan-Wong, who was appointed by the mayor to chair the public works and infrastructure committee, simply replied, "smarten up."
The controversy comes just as the mayor is dealing with two other headaches — widespread criticism over his use of city resources to help administer the football teams he runs and a legal challenge over conflict of interest rules he is alleged to have broken that could ultimately result in him being removed from office.
"It's really important for the mayor to separate his duties and responsibilities as mayor from that of his personal and business relationships," Minnan-Wong said.