Rob Ford chairs executive committee amid crack scandal
Press secretaries George Christopoulos, Isaac Ransom quit earlier 'on principle'
Toronto's embattled Mayor Rob Ford faces the city's executive committee as chair today, days after members asked him to come clean on the crack cocaine scandal.
A day earlier, Ford told reporters it is "business as usual," despite the abrupt departure of a handful of his senior staff and lingering questions about a still-unseen video that allegedly shows him using crack cocaine.
Ford said he found out on Monday that press secretary George Christopoulos and deputy press secretary Isaac Ransom had tendered their resignations and were leaving his office.
"I wish them the best of luck in their future endeavours and I want to thank them for working hard in this office," Ford told reporters at city hall.
- Mayor Rob Ford speaks to media Monday.
- Rob Ford, brother blast 'bunch of maggots' in the media.
- Ford denies using crack cocaine.
- Photo gallery: Ford scandal shakes Toronto.
Ford would not provide details on what prompted their exits.
There was confusion about who would be picking up the slack for the departing staff members.
A statement was sent out from the mayor's office saying that Sunny Petrujkic would serve as interim press secretary until further notice.
But when Ford spoke to reporters, he said that Amin Massoudi would be his new "communications director …as of today." The mayor later tweeted that Massoudi was his "new press secretary."
Sources told the CBC's city hall reporter, Jamie Strashin, that the two key staff members quit "on principle."
The news of the staff changes in the mayor's office came just four days after Ford parted ways with his chief of staff.
Last Thursday, Mark Towhey told reporters that he had not chosen to leave the mayor's office.
"I am no longer the chief of staff. I did not resign," Towhey said.
Towhey issued a tweet after the news broke that Christopoulos and Ransom had left the mayor's office, saying they were "2 outstanding, honest & honorable professionals for whom I have enormous respect."
The upheaval in Ford’s office began 10 days ago, when journalists from the Toronto Star and the U.S. gossip website Gawker reported viewing a video that appeared to show Toronto's mayor smoking crack.
Ford has denied the video exists and denied he has a cocaine problem.
The drama surrounding the alleged video has drawn attention from media outlets around the world.
Apologizes for calling media 'bunch of maggots'
On Sunday, the mayor and his brother, Coun. Doug Ford, used their weekly radio show to deny the allegations of drug use. Rob Ford also called the media a "bunch of maggots" during the broadcast.
On Monday, Ford apologized for making the maggot remark.
"I'm sure you understand this has been a very stressful week for myself and my family," Ford said. He added that the stress "doesn't justify using the terminology I did describing the media."
Gawker hits fundraising goal
Meanwhile, Gawker has hit its goal of raising $200,000 to purchase the video which allegedly shows Ford smoking what appears to be crack cocaine. As of 4 p.m. ET on Monday, the online gossip website had contributions totalling $200,301.
Even with the money raised, it's unclear whether the tape will surface. Both Gawker and the Star reported last week that they have lost contact with the person who has possession of the alleged video.
The CBC's John Lancaster spoke to police sources Monday who confirm that investigators spoke to at least one member of the mayor’s staff in the past week about the existence of the video and where it might be located.
Ford was asked about the interview on Monday, and referred reporters to the police.
"I have no idea what the police are investigating. It’s better that you talk to the police about that," he said.
Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday told CBC News Network Monday he was unsure of the factors that led to the departure of the two press secretaries.
"I'm really disappointed to see that those two gentlemen have left, but again I don't really know why they've done it," he said in a telephone interview.
"And it's not up to me to run the mayor's office, and he can deploy his people as he sees fit. And I guess he's making changes there that he wants."
Coun. John Parker said that when the mayor was speaking to reporters on Monday afternoon, Ford seemed more relaxed and accessible than he has since the crack cocaine allegations were first raised.
"That's the best he's done so far," Parker said during an interview on CBC News Network. "Not all his answers were credible though. So it's clear that there's turmoil in the mayor's office, it's clear there's a problem and you can't paper over it."
Ford, who turns 44 on Tuesday, has served as Toronto's mayor for the past 2½ years. He previously served as a city councillor in Etobicoke, the Toronto suburb where he lives with his family.
Since being elected as mayor, Ford has consistently made headlines both for his work at city hall and his life outside of it.
He has pushed for city council to cut spending and keep taxes low, while clashing with councillors on key issues such as transit.