City hall security 'fell short of expectations' during Rob Ford years

Toronto city hall security faced "unprecedented demands" during Rob Ford's tenure as mayor and "fell short of expectations," according to the city ombudsman.

Ombudsman investigated several security failures during Ford's time as Toronto mayor

Rob Ford is seen arriving at a 'Ford Fest' party in July of 2014, when he was still serving as the mayor of Toronto. (Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press)

Toronto city hall security faced "unprecedented demands" during Rob Ford's tenure as mayor and "fell short of expectations," according to the city ombudsman.

Fiona Crean released her findings in a report published online Thursday morning, writing that security "failed to fulfil its mandate to provide equitable protection to all individuals" and did not thoroughly investigate complaints about their conduct.

She added that beginning in the spring of 2013, public scrutiny and media attention directed at Ford "created unprecedented demands" on city hall security staff, who found it difficult to say no to him. 

It was around that time that reports of Ford's problems with substance abuse surfaced. By late May, allegations that Ford smoked crack cocaine while in office, and the purported existence of video of him doing so, were making international headlines.

"It should have been evident to security by mid-2013 that the climate at city hall had changed. It was no longer business as usual. The media were ever-present and were not going away," the report said. 

Ford admitted to using crack cocaine and abusing alcohol in November 2013, though he defiantly refused to resign from office. He announced his intention to run for re-election in the 2014 mayoral race, though he was forced to drop out last summer due to a cancer diagnosis and five rounds of chemotherapy treatment. He was, however, elected as a city councillor in Etobicoke, where he currently serves. 

On Thursday, Ford released a lengthy statement reacting to the ombudsman's report.

"The ombudsman's report brings to light a number of questions and concerns, and some of them start in her own office," Ford said in the first sentence of his statement.

Ford, 45, took issue with some of the terminology she used in her report, as well as some of her findings. He said "a number... are subjective, and are not based in fact."

Personal bodyguards

Crean began the investigation after receiving 15 complaints about security's conduct from April 2013 to May 2014.

She highlighted six incidents in her report, including Ford's use of a particular security guard as a personal bodyguard, though policy was to rotate guards assigned to the mayor's detail.

"Management took the path of least resistance between May and November 2013, and allowed the guard to function as if he was the mayor's dedicated staff. He acted as a personal bodyguard rather than an impartial city employee," she wrote. 

The report also outlines several occasions when, at the request of the mayor's office, guards asked reporters for identification before press conferences.

Further, Crean outlined the failure on behalf of a security guard on St. Patrick's Day 2012 to report that Ford went to city hall in the early-morning hours with two other people and appeared "very intoxicated as he had problems walking."

Raucous council meetings

Similarly, Crean reviewed an incident when Ford exited city hall using an underground parking lot so he could avoid media waiting for him outside. A security guard reportedly covered a closed-circuit camera so it would not record Ford, who was allegedly drunk at the time, walking to his car in the parking lot. 

Crean also found that security failed to intervene when Ford and his brother, former councillor Doug Ford, got into a shouting match with several members of the public in a November 2013 council meeting. During that raucous meeting, Ford ran into Coun. Pam McConnell, knocking her over and injuring her

Rob Ford knocks over councillor

9 years ago
Duration 0:41
Toronto mayor runs into Coun. Pam McConnell during a raucous city council meeting

Crean made six recommendations, including that:

  • Security take direction from management and not elected officials.
  • Security receive proper training and supplemental training if necessary.
  • Those in management who investigate complaints be given the "requisite skills and knowledge to do so."

In a letter included in the report and addressed to Crean, city manager Joseph Pennachetti said the Toronto staff "fully support" her recommendations and will work co-operatively to implement them. 

On mobile? Read the full report here


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