Lawyer for former OPP deputy says Doug Ford orchestrated his client's firing
Brad Blair has been an outspoken critic of Ron Taverner's appointment as OPP chief
The lawyer representing former Ontario Provincial Police deputy commissioner Brad Blair has accused Premier Doug Ford of orchestrating the firing of his client.
Blair was dismissed Monday for allegedly revealing confidential OPP information, which the Ford government has called a breach of his oath as an officer.
During a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Blair's lawyer Julian Falconer said the process that led to his client's termination was rife with conflict of interest. He called the outcome "legally embarrassing."
"The conflicts of interest that abound in this case are mind-boggling," Falconer said. "This is what abuse of power looks like in 2019."
Blair has been an outspoken critic of the decision to appoint Ford's longtime friend Ron Taverner as the next OPP chief, and he is asking an Ontario court to force the province's ombudsman to investigate the appointment.
Taverner officially withdrew his name from consideration Wednesday in a letter to Community Safety Minister Sylvia Jones.
Blair also made headlines in recent weeks as the whistleblower who revealed Ford's plans to spend $50,000 customizing a van through the OPP.
"It is patently clear to me that this is reprisal and an attempt to muzzle me, and that this reprisal is directly connected to my good faith efforts to seek redress before the Divisional Court and the provincial ombudsman," Blair wrote in a statement Tuesday.
Blair is 'angry,' cabinet minister says
The Progressive Conservatives have said the firing was directed by Mario Di Tommaso, the deputy minister of Community Safety, who consulted with interim OPP Commissioner Gary Couture.
Jones, the minister, has repeatedly insisted that Blair's firing was not politically motivated. She points out the decision was ultimately approved by the independent Public Service Commission.
"This individual didn't get the job he applied for," Jones said to her fellow legislators Wednesday morning. "He is angry."
However, Falconer argues that Di Tommaso should not have had a role in the firing since he is a primary target of Blair's accusations. Di Tommaso was also Taverner's former boss at Toronto police and part of the hiring board that recommended Taverner for the OPP's top job.
"A high school student would understand the blatant personal and professional conflicts of interest the deputy minister has found himself in," Falconer said.
He said Di Tommaso "is actually the tool that has been used by the premier to fire Brad Blair," he added.
Was Blair fired illegally?
Falconer is also arguing that Blair's firing did not follow the procedures mandated under Ontario law, and that his client had no opportunity to defend himself.
Falconer said Blair was never told to stop or modify his behaviour in any way prior to his firing, and the process was not initiated through the Police Services Act.
"This is what happens when you make it up as you go," he said.
Falconer said he and Blair are considering steps to challenge the firing, though he did not say what that strategy would look like.
The government did not immediately respond to Falconer's claims.