Toronto Mayor Rob Ford's staff was told days ago about the potential location of an alleged drug video that has threatened his administration, according to a pair of reports published today.
Ford, who turned 44 on Tuesday, has been under fire for more than a week, following reports about an alleged video shown to reporters at the Toronto Star and the U.S. gossip website Gawker. The alleged video reportedly shows the mayor of Toronto smoking what appears to be crack cocaine.
The mayor initially called the allegations "ridiculous," and waited days to make a more substantive statement, eventually telling reporters last Friday that he does not smoke crack cocaine and was not addicted to it. He has also denied the video's existence.
But with each day that has followed the initial reports, more questions have been raised and the media coverage has intensified. During this same period, Ford has seen the departure of three of his senior staff members. The mayor, however, has claimed it's "business as usual" at city hall.
On Tuesday, the Star and the Globe and Mail reported that when the reports about the video first broke, a staff member alerted one of his colleagues in the mayor's office that he had information about where the video might be located.
The reports say David Price told Mark Towhey, the mayor's chief of staff before his departure, that he had reliable information about the location of the video.
Both newspaper reports said that Towhey subsequently contacted police about what he had been told.
When approached by CBC reporters on Tuesday, Price declined to answer their questions.
Price serves as the director of operations and logistics in the mayor's office.
The mayor's brother, Coun. Doug Ford, was asked about the reports that emerged Tuesday and if he was aware that a staff member had received information about the alleged video.
"I have no knowledge of that and you're going to have to talk to the police about that," he told reporters.
Asked if he had tried to obtain the alleged video, Ford said he had not.
"No, never. No. If anyone ever approached me with a video, I'd call the police — instantly," Ford said.
Ford was chairing a meeting of his executive committee on Tuesday.
When that meeting wrapped on Tuesday evening, the mayor made some remarks about regional transit development and his opposition to using new taxes to pay for it, but brushed aside questions related to the alleged video.
"I’ve addressed those concerns. If you have any questions about what I just talked about, I’d be more than happy to answer questions," Ford said, shortly before he walked away from reporters.
A group of Toronto residents tried to crash the meeting at one point during the day, bringing a birthday cake with a message written in frosting that urged Ford to resign.
Seeing video would 'clear up a lot of things'
On Tuesday, Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday said he had spoken with one of the two Star reporters who wrote about the video and said he believes that it exists.
"I think if we can just get the video, then we can analyze the video and see if it's doctored or if it's real, and we can go from there. That would clear up a lot of things," he told reporters at city hall.
Two other members of the mayor’s executive committee, Coun. Paul Ainslie and Coun. Michael Thompson, said Tuesday that they were unsure if the video exists.
"I have no idea," said Thompson.
Ainslie called on the people with access to the video to make it public.
"If there is a tape there, I hope that whoever has it does the responsible thing and releases it," he said.
Coun. John Parker told reporters it appears to him that "people are looking for the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
"And right now people aren’t satisfied that that’s what they're been receiving, so the questions continue to be asked and I expect they will continue to be asked until they are answered," Parker said.
Gawker has raised more than $200,000 through online donations, funds the website said it planned to use to purchase the alleged video from someone who had been offering it. But Gawker said it has been unable to contact the person or persons believed to be in possession of it.
"I am frankly shocked and heartened that this actually happened. We are going to try very hard to make it work," Gawker editor John Cook wrote on the website Tuesday.
"This will be a very delicate transaction. If the people who are in possession of the video are reading this: Please get in touch with our mutual friend, or with me.… We did what you asked."
Ford was elected mayor in the fall of 2010. He had previously served as a city councillor in Etobicoke, the Toronto suburb where he lives with his family.
Since taking office, Ford has pushed to cut spending at city hall and limit any tax increases. He has also clashed with councillors on key issues, including transit and the priorities for the city.
Ford's life outside his job has also made headlines on numerous occasions.